We should all be cancelled.
Everyone reading this right now has had thoughts that would get him or her fired if they were put in a tweet. Everyone has said things in relationships that would have people think they were monsters if they read it out of context in a blog post. We have crossed streets for the wrong reasons, lashed out based on fear, cheated, lied, had thoughts that made us feel so dirty that the only way to purify ourselves would be to bathe in the hopes and dreams of Mr. Rogers, the only man who was truly pure. (If they ever find anything on that guy I’m giving up.)
Is Dr. Jordan Peterson a “gateway drug” to the alt-right? Heterodox Academy has published a research summary that attempts to answer that question. What’s weird is that these kinds of questions keep being asked of a mild-mannered psychology professor and author who has helped thousands upon thousands of young people straighten out their lives.
This study used machine learning tools in a similar way that Becca Lewis did in her infamous and debunked Data and Society report. (Lewis, by the way, was recently caught spreading misinformation about Peterson and his daughter on Twitter.) It also cites as evidence this panic-driven Cornell study that embarrassingly refers to moderate Conservative Canadian MP Michelle Rempel as “alt-lite” (whatever the hell that means).
Much of Peterson’s draw has been from the young, white, male community, and once he realized they were listening, he has reached out to this demographic. This is the same demographic that, in the spirit of righting old wrongs, has been so vilified. However, to say that he reached out to this demographic because of their identity would be a mistake.
Prior to the YouTube video on pronouns that sparked his international fame, Peterson was giving lectures on religion, mythology, and virtue. He was talking about the importance of personal responsibility and the lessons of western culture. The people who wanted to hear how they could change their lives for the better, without waiting for an organization, or government, or society to change it for them, listened. Once Peterson emerged onto the bigger stage, that message was amplified, and even more people were able to hear it.
Are those people hateful? Are these folks who go to YouTube to try and make themselves better, bad? How can this be quantified? The way that these people are organized into groups is pretty much arbitrary, as are the groups they are classified into. Studies like this look first at viewers because it is so hard to quantify what constitutes hate speech.
What this means is that instead of trying to identify the language that is hateful, those who are “hateful” are identified, their language analyzed and tracked across the platform. After users have been assigned to groups based on perceived identity, the language within the channels used by those groups is deconstructed to see where it overlaps.
This is the information that is used to determine whether or not Dr. Jordan B. Peterson is a “bad guy” or whether he should “do better.” The conclusion is that he isn’t quite, but he should do better somehow, use different language. The idea is that he should not make himself attractive to those individuals who may otherwise tend toward disenfranchisement. We’ve got to a point where a person’s perceived proclivity is enough to make them untouchable.
But here’s the thing: Jordan Peterson’s entire project is not about identity, not even a little. It’s actually anti-identity. Identity politics is being grafted over him where it does not actually exist. The reason people feel comfortable doing that is because we live in an identity-based age, where it is assumed that everything boils down to identity eventually. It is probable, even likely, that for many people, identity factors are irrelevant to how they live their lives.
The authors claim that they do not want Peterson to “self-censor.” But then they go on to say, “Instead, we would encourage Peterson et al. to consider ways they may be able to make the same points, just as forcefully, while avoiding a particular set of tropes.”
What is “avoiding a particular set of tropes” if not self-censorship? You can use as much window dressing as you want on your authoritarianism but it doesn’t change the fact that you are an authoritarian.
Sometimes a problem requires a simpler explanation. Yes, there are bad actors in the world. And yes, the internet is full of them. The alt-right spreads hate and panic and their vile ideas must be combatted. But the notions of guilt-by-association or guilt-by-proximity that studies like this propagate are dangerous and counterproductive. We used to know this.
Peterson has been able to tap into the hated white cis male category of people, and for that he is vilified. It’s been determined that people who fall into that identity category are a problem, but they deserve compassion, too. How people are identified is not always how they identify, and either way, a person’s identity should never be used against them. We used to know that, too.
Peterson is as clear and concise as possible, and if his ideas reach people who are operating in the world in dangerous, destructive ways, there’s every reason to believe that they will rethink that behaviour. Not all audiences can hear the same message in the same way. If these angry young people can’t hear messages of inclusivity, anti-racism, and personal responsibility from the trending leftist sources, there must be voices, like Peterson’s, speaking in a way that they can hear.
Regardless of their mindset, these young people do not deserve to be lost, tossed aside, or dismissed. Their lives have meaning and Peterson tells them that. The truth of the matter is that Jordan Peterson has been a great force for deradicalization in ways that are not easily explained by elaborate data sets. There are countless examples people whose lives have been improved by his advice that will never be tracked by IP address or pixel.
It seems strange that of all platforms, Heterodox Academy, which purports to promote “open inquiry, viewpoint diversity, and constructive disagreement in institutions of higher learning,” would run such a narrowly defined piece of research. It appears to be the kind of identity-obsessed scholarship that Heterodox Academy usually fights back against.
We live in an era that depends too heavily on machine learning. Peterson preaches the exact opposite of this: deeply personal, human, and humane learning. He is not easily quantified because his message based in neither identity nor algorithm, but in classical values. Concepts that can’t be instantly categorized as either left or right don’t have a place in the easily digestible, portion-controlled ideological landscape.
The famed hockey player, Bobby Orr, has defended Don Cherry, saying that his firing by Sportsnet was disgraceful, according to The Score.
Speaking to WEEI, Orr stated that he knew Cherry better then anyone. “He’s not a bigot and he’s not a racist. This guy is the most generous, caring guy that I know.”
Orr’s comments come after a Remembrance Day rant on Coaches Corner, where Cherry said “You people that come here, you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple of bucks for poppies or something like that.”
Some commentators believed that Cherry was referring to inner-city immigrants of colour, despite the fact that the hockey icon has often used the term “you people” to describe his viewers.
Cherry was fired on Remembrance Day, which Orr saw as being additionally insulting due to Cherry’s advocacy for Canadian veterans. “What they’ve done to him up there is disgraceful. It really is,” Orr continued.
Cherry coached Orr for two years when he played for the Boston Bruins. Cherry has called Orr his favourite player of all time.
Former Toronto Maple Leafs player Nazem Kadri told reporters Tuesday he also thinks Cherry’s statements were taken out of context.
“[Cherry] has been there for so long, it’s going to be hard to see [Coach’s Corner] without him, that’s definitely unfortunate. I know Grapes and I don’t think it came across like everyone is making it sound. I think with what he said, it was maybe just said incorrectly. People maybe took it out of context a little bit. I know Grapes is a great person and am sad to see him go.”
“Sometimes a scandal isn’t just a scandal, but a biopsy of a society,” said the British author Douglas Murray earlier this year. This apercu was coined in his reporting on the scandal that involved the indomitable philosopher, Roger Scruton, who was fired from his position in the British government for things he never said. This was the product of the crafty editing skills of George Eaton, who distorted Scruton’s responses to make him look like all kinds of politically incorrect bugaboos.
Though the context and character are different, Murray’s phrase can apply to the non-ceremonial ousting of Canada’s beloved curmudgeon, Don Cherry. His defenestration carries with it all the great features of the perfect cancelling. One of them is perhaps the most aggravating: false outrage over things that a few years ago might have disturbed the overly sensitive, but the effects would have been momentary. It would have blown over after a day or two. People would have quickly gained their composure and moved on and left the octogenarian to his work, which many Canadians enjoy. And yes, his cantankerous demeanour is among the many reasons why this has been the case for decades.
But, unfortunately, the culture we’re living in rewards outrage to the point that people will pursue it for the sake of social validation and to feed their own egomania; they’re supposed compassion for the “violated” comes off so contrived and convenient as to be nauseating. Particularly since the things upon which they train their sights are often as frivolous as a sports broadcaster expressing his concerns over people not wearing poppies. One can’t help but take notice of the façade being showcased by many, since if we were to suggest that they do something that would actually make their outrage worthwhile—such as donating property to an immigrant Cherry ostensibly violated—they’d likely disappear quickly from their podium of virtue. When Cherry was on his show earlier this week, Tucker Carlson said that these people are “fascists” with no feelings and are using their “outrage” to “exert power.”
We certainly can argue over the applicability of the word “fascist,” but the gist of what Carlson said is accurate. With the most cursory reading of the avalanche of denouncements, it’d not be far-fetched to assert that many deep down aren’t really that appalled by Don Cherry’s comments. For with the advent of social media, these people have developed even more of an addiction to attaining instant approval from their peers and, upon seeing where the wind is blowing, have shifted their focus to satisfying this addiction through the pursuit of superficial causes they likely weren’t interested in until an hour ago.
What this has created is a generation of moral narcissists who engage in performative outrage, treating takedowns of old-timers like Don Cherry as some great act of bravery and something for which they are owed adulation. They operate in a non-existent universe in which they have had no moments of indiscretion, and they arrogantly impose their new standards of perfection onto people for offences past and present. In a sober-minded world, they’d likely be left standing on a corner rambling like a crazed wing nut and attract only a few supporters. But social media provides them with an obsequious, like-minded tribe who will readily applaud their every utterance and provide them with a constant dose of self-satisfaction.
In a new article for the Atlantic with the fitting title, “The Dark Psychology of Social Networks,” Jonathan Haidt and Tobias Rose-Stockwell provide one of the most insightful analyses of this social malaise. They argue that people have become susceptible to this contagion of “fake outrage” as social media has transformed “communication into a public performance.” The lack of intimacy in the Twittersphere makes interaction with others entirely based upon outdoing the next person with their “grandstanding” and scrutinizing of others instead of actually making an attempt to connect with people by productive, two-way communication. “ Nuance and truth are casualties in this competition to gain the approval of an audience,” they observe. “Grandstanders scrutinize every word spoken by their opponents—and sometimes even their friends—for the potential to evoke public outrage. Context collapses. The intent of the speaker is ignored.”
With the immediate consumption of mass information, people have lost touch with ideas and principles that have long sustained civil society and have come to see little value in learning about them, while becoming obsessed with dim-witted fights. “Even though they have unprecedented access to all that has ever been written and digitized,” Haidt and Rose-Stockwell write, “members of Gen Z (those born after 1995 or so) may find themselves less familiar with the accumulated wisdom of humanity than any recent generation, and therefore more prone to embrace ideas that bring social prestige within their immediate network yet are ultimately misguided.”
These people deprive themselves of the timeless values that would restrain them—such as reason, curiosity, truth, giving others the benefit of the doubt, decency, pluralism, among others.
People, such as those on The Social, instead become dog whistle specialists, who are incredibly precise when it comes to reading minds and confirming one’s motives without any further questions. They then claim it as evidence of a much larger crisis, though the only ones really “taking offence” are the cultural elitists in the major metropolitans and their Twitter legion of moral narcissists desperate to profit off of outrage.
Don Cherry is only the latest casualty of this insidious enterprise.
The far-left extremist group Antifa receives support from The Canadian Anti-Hate Network (CAN). They have also commended and disseminated far-left conspiracy theories.
In an article in The Federalist, CAN’s relationship with Antifa was uncovered, in which the organization’s members were found to be supporting Antifa by advising and protecting the extremist group in the media.
The latest example involved free-speech rally in Hamilton that took place on Mohawk College’s campus. The event was organized jointly by Dave Rubin and Maxime Bernier. Before the rally was held, a member of CAN published an op-ed in a local newspaper where they demanded the group be de-platformed. This was because the rally was allegedly “ushering people into the neo-Nazi movement.”
Following this op-ed, Rubin claims Antifa activists threatened the venue and its participants, resulting in higher security costs.
“They absolutely got threats which is why the security fee was increased. Also at the event itself there were clearly plenty of threats outside,” Rubin told The Post Millennial.
College spokesperson Bill Steinburg told the CBC Mohawk did not receive any threats to cancel the event.
When the rally began, Antifa activists appeared and subsequently gained nation-wide attention when they refused to allow an elderly woman with a walker to cross the street. They did so by blocking her path so they had sufficient time to scream, “nazi scum” at her. They refused to listen to the women and were thus unaware that her family had fought against the Nazis in World War Two.
When The Post Millennial approached CAN for a comment, they responded by saying that the op-ed “wasn’t what alerted anti-fascists to the event. Organizing was already underway–which we had absolutely no involvement with.” The CAN spokesman went on to say that “I didn’t say the rally was ushering people to neo-Nazism, but that a study analyzing 79 million comments and 330,000 videos found that Rubin is part of a radicalization process on Youtube … my intention in the op-ed is quite obviously to have Mohawk make the principled decision not to host the event.”
CAN’s executive director Evan Balgord has also provided advice to the extremist group, stating that they should be “media aware” in response to the group harassing an elderly woman. When The Post Millennial approached Balgord for comment, he did not address the tweet, stating instead that he “condemned what happened.”
More seriously, however, the Chairman of the CAN, Bernie Farber, praised a journalist’s lauding of Antifa’s “muscular resistance”.
When Balgord was asked about the allegation from The Federalist that Farber himself praised Anitfa’s use of “muscular resistance,” he said, “Bernie didn’t say that. You’re quoting Bernie [Farber] quoting [another journalist]. Further, muscular does not necessarily equal violence. Farber is quite explicitly anti-violence, and any implication to the contrary is defamatory.”
Nevertheless, Farber quoted the journalist’s comments and then went on to praise the journalist who said it, saying “the understanding [the journalist] brings to a difficult issue is well worth your read.”
Farber has also been tied to people who promote extremist ideology and has protected individuals who preach hate. Earlier this October, for instance, Farber spoke at an event with Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) speakers, which has been described by Canadian Jewish advocacy group B’nai Brith as a “hateful and racist movement that singles out Israel.” The Centre for Israel and Jewish affairs describes BDS as “antisemitism disguised as anti-Zionism.”
Additionally, Farber has regularly defended allegedly anti-Semitic individuals. In one case, Farber stated that an Imam who said “slay them one by one and spare not one of them. Oh Allah! Purify Al-Aqsa Mosque from the filth of the Jews,” had been treated unfairly.
When approached with this, the CAN spokesman said “At the time it was believed to be a mistranslation–I don’t know that it’s possible to know the truth of that one way or another given the different interpretations by different linguists … that’s the information Bernie [Farber] had.”
Balgord has a history of defending Antifa. In a blog post, he defended the amorphous organization by stating that there were “many examples of anti-fascists (Antifa) using violence to protect other protesters.” Balgord proceeded to state that the media presented “a distorted image of the movement.” He also co-wrote an article for Rabble with Kevin Metcalf, one of the protesters arrested by Hamilton Police three weeks ago for allegedly attacking a man at the aforementioned free speech rally.
In response to this, Balgord stated that he was a “proud supporter of the anti-fascist movement [not to be confused with the extremist Antifa group]. The vast majority of violence at the many Canadian demonstrations I have attended or reviewed footage of is began [sic] by supporters and sympathizers of hate groups, not anti-fascists.”
On writing an article with Metcalf, Balgord stated that “Metcalf is not affiliated with the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, but I wish him the best of luck with his charges.”
For some context, U.S. Antifa has assaulted prominent journalist Andy Ngo (who is also now The Post Millennial’s Editor-at-large), leaving him with a brain bleed. The Canadian branch of Antifa has also attacked independent journalists in Quebec City. In response to this event, Antifa stated that “sometimes, it is necessary to go against what the mainstream considers ‘acceptable,’ to break the law in order to do the ethical thing.”
South of the Canadian border, Antifa has been criticized for its intimidation of broadcasters with the intent to de-platform speakers. They are also known to disseminate malicious conspiracy theories and attack innocent bystanders. Public intellectual Noam Chomsky has described Antifa as a “major gift” to the right.
Concerning the malicious conspiracy theories, the “Yellow Vests Exposed group,” who call themselves “CAN contributors,” have also encouraged outlandish conspiracy theories. This includes the organization repeatedly stating that “Andy Ngo is a threat to our community and provides kill lists to Atomwaffen” on Twitter without any evidence.
Balgord stood by these unproven claims. “It [was] not a conspiracy. Andy Ngo is dangerous and by pushing that non-study he got journalists on a kill list.”
This conspiracy theory has been widely disproven. Claire Lehmann, the editor of the magazine that published this article, has gone on record stating that “Andy Ngo played no role in the production of this article.” As well as this, Lehmann stated that “the whole situation is absurd … and [the kill list] has no connection to Quillette.”
CAN are only too eager to label conservative figures and groups as “far-right.” In a report, for instance, CAN stated that there were 300 hate groups in Canada. According to their arithmetic, there are 160 percent more hate groups in Canada than the U.S. per capita.
Clarification: An earlier version of this article claimed Mohawk College received threats before the Rubin interview with Bernier took place on the campus, in part from an op-ed written by CAN’s Evan Balgord. Balgord brought to The Post Millennial‘s attention that Mohawk College spokesperson Bill Steinburg told CBC there were no threats received. Rubin maintains otherwise, telling The Post Millennial: “They absolutely got threats which is why the security fee was increased. Also at the event itself there were clearly plenty of threats outside.” All of this has been added to the article to clarify the differing accounts of what happened.