The reeducation of Jordan Peterson
Ontario’s College of Psychologists and its thought police
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On Jan. 3, 2023, Jordan Peterson announced on Twitter that the College of Psychologists of Ontario had ordered him to submit to media communication retraining at his own expense. Peterson has argued that the transgender phenomenon is a social contagion harmful to vulnerable and mentally unstable children and young adults. He has denied that a woman could declare herself to be a man and expect people to consider it valid. The Ontario College of Psychologists is attempting to force him to recant his opinions. You can read the offending tweets here.
What is this story really about? On one level, it is about Jordan Peterson being attacked by a bureaucratic body, and your opinion on that news will depend on whether you love or hate him. On a deeper level, it is about the ability of society to entertain views that are at odds with its canons of political correctness. But at a still more profound level, the issue is about the need to acknowledge the nature of reality. What are the implications of a society trying to force individuals to deny reality?
Peterson has become Canada’s leading public intellectual, but he is despised by woke advocates for being a critic of their attempts to impose speech and thought control on the entire society. The complaints came from people who had never met him. They were not his clients, and he has never been accused of clinical malpractice. So why would the college think it had any business intervening? His analysis of the reason is: “Every single accusation is not only independent of my clinical practice, but explicitly political. ... Every single thing I have been sentenced to correction for saying is insufficiently leftist, politically. I’m simply too classically liberal—or, even more unforgivably—conservative.”
Expressions of outrage over the treatment of Peterson have come quickly. Peterson is fighting back. He has launched a legal challenge against the Ontario College of Psychologists, arguing that depriving individuals of free speech is dangerous for society as a whole. As Peterson put it:
“Canadians: your physicians, lawyers, psychologists and other professionals are now so intimidated by their commissar overlords that they fear to tell you the truth. This means that your care and legal counsel has been rendered dangerously unreliable.”
What happens when Canadians distrust lawyers, psychologists, doctors, and other professionals? These professions have long been governed by a code of ethics that their members saw as being in their best interests to enforce rigorously. By doing so, they earn the trust necessary to serve the public effectively. But what happens when professions are politicized? What happens when the public no longer perceives professionals as free to say what they think? Trust breaks down.
We don’t often consider how much trust is required for a society to operate efficiently. When you put your money in the bank, you do so partly because you are convinced that you can take it out again when you want it. You will not put your money in the bank if you lose this trust. When this happens on a grand enough scale, the banks will not have enough money to lend you for your mortgage. The whole system works on trust.
As a world-famous celebrity, Jordan Peterson will be fine. This issue is not really about one individual. It goes deeper into the dangers of limiting free speech, as real as those dangers are.
The most profound issue is whether our society is endangering itself by denying reality. To deny reality is dangerous. Gravity is real, and stepping off a cliff, whatever your personal beliefs about the existence of cliffs, leads to death. Men and women are born as men or women. Every cell in our bodies is either male or female. This is not opinion or politics but scientific fact. It does not seem any safer to deny biological sex than to deny gravity. Individuals are being hurt, but society as a whole is being hurt as well.
Those who elevate ideology above facts are a clear and present danger to the rest of us. As long as they are kept out of power, there is little danger to society. But when they take over the Ontario College of Psychologists and dozens of other important institutions, they threaten our society’s effective operation. The answer is not that the college should just leave Jordan Peterson alone. The answer is that the college needs to renounce politicization, expel the people who deny reality from its leadership, and come to terms with reality.
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