Preston Manning on faith, Jordan Peterson, and Stephen Harper’s populism
During last weekend’s Manning Conference in Ottawa, I had the opportunity to sit down with a man who has spent nearly all his life involved in conservative Canadian politics in one way or another.
Preston Manning, as many of our readers will know, was the leader of the former Reform Party from 1987 to 2000 and a Member of Parliament from 1993 to 2002. Much of his work in the 1980’s and 90’s paved the way for what is now the Conservative Party of Canada.
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.
Mikhaila Peterson and her father Dr. Jordan Peterson have a bestselling book on Amazon about the carnivore diet. The only problem, it’s not their book.
While Mikhaila has been vocal about her support for a thoroughly carnivorous diet, this book transcribes comments, interviews, and YouTube videos of the two Petersons and puts it together as a collection. It had no approval from either of the listed authors, no proceeds are heading their way, and fans have been fooled into buying the fake book with a horrendous, amateur photoshopped cover.
The guy who put the whole thing together is Johnny Rockermeier, a German YouTuber who has published one other book of Jordan Peterson transcriptions. His YouTube page is full of Peterson videos and interviews.
In fact, Rockermeier appears to be a fanboy. So why would he take it upon himself to attribute a book to Mikhaila and Jordan Peterson, hijacking and misappropriating their brand?
We reached out to Mikhaila who told us “[Rockermeier] did some German translations for my dad’s videos a number of years ago on YouTube. But he shouldn’t be publishing. We received an email and sent it to our lawyers and said, ‘No you can’t do that.’ That was two weeks ago. Our lawyers didn’t get on it fast enough. I don’t know why Amazon isn’t more on top of this kind of thing. It’s happened before.”
Disturbingly, a number of left-wing activist journalists and researchers have taken to Twitter to use the fake book as a line of attack against Mikhaila and her father. When put in their place by Mikhaila herself, they still haven’t corrected their false assertions.
Some of the activists include Nathan Bernard and Becca Lewis, a social justice researcher who falsely claimed that Peterson’s videos were part of an “alternative influence network” that led to the “alt-right” in a since-debunked study.
The Post Millennial was also able to connect with Rockermeier. When asked if he thought there might be a problem with publishing and selling a book without the authors’ consent, he told us, “well they could contact me so I guess they’re happy with it. In the book there’s nothing they didn’t say, and the pics are publicly available. [Mikhaila] even posted her mom in swimwear.” He then added a smiley face with a tongue sticking out.
When asked about the claim on Amazon that, “for every paperback sold, Mikhaila and her father Dr. Jordan Peterson will receive $1.00 directly,” Rockermeier said, “I will send their royalties when her Thinkspot is up. She’s off Patreon now. But honestly, they don’t need any more money.”
Mikhaila Peterson went on to tell us that she plans to look for a way to get the fraudulent books removed. “Normally it doesn’t bother me, yesterday I thought it was kind of funny. The cover is so cheesy that it’s kind of funny. But I’ve gotten emails about what a terrible person I am and what a terrible person my dad is. No matter how resilient you are, it’s tough reading a whole bunch of messages like that. People forget that anyone who has a platform is also a person.”
As of writing Amazon is still selling the fraudulent books. Amazon did not immediately respond to request for comment.
ShapeShifter Lab in New York City has cancelled a screening for the movie “The Rise of Jordan Peterson” because its staff felt uncomfortable.
An email was circulated to customers who had bought tickets to the show, and gave the reason that some staff were made uncomfortable by the first screening.
The customers were refunded for their purchases.
Jordan Peterson, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto, has risen to become a personality that has inspired many.
He is an outspoken critic of political correctness, identity politics, and what he calls “Post-modern Neo-Marxism.”
Peterson recently debated notable Socialist philosopher Slavoj Žižek on the topic of “Happiness: Capitalism versus Communism.”
The film’s producer, Holding Space wrote a press release that stated:
Déjà vu. Our encore screening in New York today was cancelled because of staff complaints. We found out at 11pm last night that the venue, Shapeshifter Lab in Brooklyn, decided to cancel. The screening was scheduled for 4pm today. Ticket-holders are all being refunded.
We’re disappointed, to say the least. We sent the venue owners a link to the film a month ago so they had a chance to review it and to be aware of what they were getting into. Instead they went in blind and made a last-minute decision under the guise of accommodating both sides because they had already screened the film once, on October 3. We hardly consider this an accommodation if we’re being notified when it’s too late to find a replacement venue. We’ve spent money traveling to New York for this and invested in promoting the screening, all of which we hoped to compensate for through ticket sales.
Some people have accused us of adopting “right-wing talking points” and of being bias in our filmmaking if we’re adopting a shutting down narrative akin to Jordan Peterson. It’s particularly difficult to digest comments like this on a day like today. How can one attempt to dismiss what is actually happening as a “narrative” or a “talking point” as if the reality of the situation isn’t relevant?
To be honest, we’re pretty bored of this story. It’s played out, and we spent years investigating it for this film. We were – and are still – hoping that our public conversation about the film can actually shift to being about the film.
We also hope Canadians watching cinema-on-demand screenings across the country today in 11 cities get a lot out of the film. We look forward to hearing your thoughts.
ShapeShifter Lab was contacted by The Post Millennial and confirmed that there was a cancellation, but provided no comment as to why.
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.