‘Mainstream success does not mean Jordan Peterson views are moderate or acceptable’

Letters to the editor, May 4, 2018: Readers weigh in on Jordan Peterson’s followers, Doug Ford and Ontario’s election

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TORONTO, ON – DECEMBER 6 – Profile of Dr. Jordan Peterson. The U of T prof at the centre of a media storm because of his public declaration that he will not use pronouns, such as “they,” to recognize non-binary genders. (Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Profile of Dr. Jordan Peterson. The U of T prof at the centre of a media storm because of his public declaration that he will not use pronouns, such as “they,” to recognize non-binary genders. (Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star/Getty Images)

Jordan Peterson’s people are not who you think they are

In May, Nicholas Köhler wrote that Peterson’s devotees don’t necessarily have alt-right views but are a diverse group of people trying to understand life.

Nicholas Köhler’s article misrepresents the criticism levelled at Jordan Peterson’s followers, creating a smoke screen that allows for their failings to go unquestioned. No, Peterson’s following is not made up entirely of white alt-right men. However, this does not mean the beliefs of people like Chris Shepherd, who was prominently featured in the article, are harmless or rational. The article notes, but does not address, that Shepherd believes in the absurd “Soy Boy” conspiracy theory-cum-insult, which has not only been thoroughly disproven by science but rests on the belief that acting in a feminine way and having empathy for social justice causes is a behaviour that is weak and needs to be “mocked” and “conquered,” to quote Shepherd’s blog. This is all without even mentioning the misogyny that is so often inherent to “pick-up artistry,” where advice often involves pressing on when women don’t reciprocate interest or ask you to stop. So, to reply to the article’s titular statement, Jordan’s Peterson’s people are exactly who I thought they were: a diverse group of people who are all there because they buy into Peterson’s binary, outdated classifications of the world. — Kate SolarOttawa

Köhler provides a much-needed profile of Peterson’s supporters beyond the caricatures commonly presented. However, showing that they are not a lunatic fringe but rather self-help junkies searching for meaning and order in a rapidly evolving age” emphasizes, rather than downplays, the threat posed by Peterson and his ideas to vulnerable people in our society. If Peterson’s fans were limited to the alt-right, there would be little reason to worry about him. A tiny lunatic fringe alone cannot overturn Canada’s broad consensus on inclusivity. But historically, that’s not what happened. When Hannah Arendt described totalitarian movements in her masterpiece The Origins of Totalitarianism, she described a core of fanatics, yes, but they were a tiny fraction of the larger movement. By the time they seized power, most Nazis were ordinary people, confused by the changing world and desperately seeking order in a world turned upside-down. I don’t know if Peterson is a fascist. He’s certainly not an anti-Semite. But fascism doesn’t need to be about race; all it needs is a hyperbolic enemy. According to Peterson in his interviews with CBC and Cathy Newman, the average trans activist is a fanatical ideologue of a murderous ideology set to destroy everything good in our society, as is anyone who mobilizes disadvantaged people to demand an end to systems of oppression. Per Peterson, the conspiracy is deep, dominating the NDP, the, Liberal Party and the education system from the ground up, and their plans will lead to hell on Earth. People who see him as a life coach are likely to get sucked into his politics, especially since he intersperses them freely in his recorded lectures. Am I saying we need to ruthlessly censor Peterson? No. That has consistently backfired. But we need to realize that mainstream success does not mean his views are moderate or acceptable. Because it is when the mainstream begins to merge with the lunatic fringe that we enter a period of real danger. — Danielle Rae, Ottawa

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Katelyn Blakeney on Facebook: His fans are angry young men who like to feel smart by having their opinions validated by someone with an education. By being intentionally vague, blaming “postmodernism”, lack of structured hierarchy and women for everything, he has amassed quite a large audience. When really, it’s just your grandpa’s conservatism dressed up. Now clean your room, boys.

Steve Mills on Facebook: They’re generally people who think, and value freedom, as opposed to the delusions of left wing narcissism

(Marta Iwanek for Maclean’s)

Are you ready for Premier Doug Ford?

In May, Shannon Proudfoot asked what would happen if the policy-averse leader of Ford Nation actually won the Ontario June election. Meanwhile, Maclean’s offered an Ontario election platform guide.

Shannon Proudfoot’s chatty article on Doug Ford was short on substance and utterly lacking in the kind of critical information needed for voters to make an intelligent decision on who deserves to be premier of Ontario. The fact is that Doug Ford’s promises don’t add up fiscally. He can’t slash taxes for his tax bracket, which already pays historically low taxes, and slay the deficit. You can’t keep minimum wage levels lower (another bonus for his tax bracket) and hope to pay off the  deficit. You can’t lay off nurses, teachers, librarians and/or public servants and hope to whittle down a deficit he pretends to care about. In fact, having them on unemployment is just going to create an even bigger deficit. The deficit is a big red herring. If he actually was alarmed about it he wouldn’t be promising to cut taxes. Tax revenues pay for deficits. He will create a worse economy than we had by cancelling infrastructure projects designed to put people to work, who will then pay taxes and keep the province in repair. After the audit, Ford will have the excuse to put the province on a typical conservative austerity budget that screws over ordinary people over. It will lay the groundwork for cancelling or curtailing social programs, making life even tougher for the “ordinary people” he professes to support. He will not suffer personally as the rich will get richer, and the deficit will grow worse. Doug Ford, a high school graduate—we hope—who is obviously math-challenged and once sold drugs on the street is not a good candidate for premier of Ontario. Next time, pick a writer who’s a little more critical and doesn’t just produce a rah-rah piece. — Mariel Booky, Chatham, Ont.

READ: More letters to the editor at Maclean’s >>

I have been seeking information on the platforms of the three major parties in Ontario. The NDP provided a quick reply. The Liberal Party promises to reply to my inquiry. I cannot find any reference to a Conservative party platform other than it will be revealed one piece at a time. I was hoping election guide would help me, and it has. Yet I was surprised to see no mention of Indigenous issues in your article, which summarized several platform positions of the three parties. This seems all the more incongruous considering the Truth and Reconciliation process, which is opening our eyes to the deliberate and planned genocide of Indigenous people in Canada. I would relish an article that compares the parties on their position relative to Indigenous issues. — Ron Coristine, London, Ont.

Melanie Jones-Drost on Facebook: I don’t believe for a minute that he is Rob Ford “without the demons”. While he doesn’t have the addiction issues his brother did, he has no experience of government at this level; his rhetoric about decisions needing to be made quickly illustrates his ignorance of the diplomatic processes that require vetting and consultation at many stages.

Dan Reed on Facebook: If he does half of what he says he will there will be thousands of layoffs, many nurses and health care workers, teachers and other public employees gone…..massive cuts to social services, it will be women and children over the side while Ford’s buddies enjoy tax cuts……sustainable energy initiatives will be abandoned…..a Trump style nightmare….

Chad Stevens on Facebook: Interesting read, I’ll admit he’s not my ideal candidate, but he’s got my vote. At this point he’s the best of the worst and maybe he will find savings without a complete gut job. The system needs to be stirred up after 15 years of this bs. I just hope he can stay strong but also work with people, the key is work with people.

READ: Maclean’s in-depth guide to where the parties stand on the big issues


Sen. Peter Harder, government representative in the Senate, left, speaks with Sen. Larry Smith, leader of the opposition in the Senate, before a vote on Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act, in the Senate chamber on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, March 22, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang)

The secret shame of the Canadian senator

In May, Scott Gilmore argued that senators are unaccountable nobodies, and that they must see they’re part of an undemocratic charade.

This article was overly critical. Yes, getting oneself elected does confer legitimacy on MPs, which is lacking with senators. But, “sober second thought” people also play a valid role. Not long ago we got independent thinking from newspaper editorials, op-eds and other feedback, from unions, academics, lobbyists and even from talk radio. With many media withering away, many citizens have more trouble now than a decade ago getting thoughtful analysis on events, as information increasingly emanates from the bloggers, shouters and dis-informers. But I do not want senators to be elected, either. That would only polarize Parliament more. So, let us wait a bit and see if the currently structured Senate of independents can find a modus vivendi which allows it to do its sober second thinking without blocking the work of the House of Commons. Also, though one deplores the Senate stalling on the marijuana bill, look at all the other countries in the world and list, please, those that are run better than ours. And the Oscar goes to… — Paul Hitschfeld, Ottawa

Maclean’s Live: Katie Telford in conversation with Paul Wells

In a May interview, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s chief of staff spoke about issues including gender equality and voters disappointed about having to sign attestations saying they support things like abortion and same-sex marriage before qualifying for the summer jobs program.

I am one of those “disappointed voters” who are disqualified for public funding unless they sign on to the present government’s ideological beliefs. Ms. Telford and the prime minister are free to believe that it is “hugely important for men and women across the country” that in cases of abortion, for example, only the woman’s decision matters. Since the fetus has no legal rights, all ethical considerations – such as whether unborn life has any value, or whether inconvenience, embarrassment, pressure from a partner, or that the fetus is female are good enough reasons to end a pregnancy—must be silenced. I and many other Canadians do not believe such questions are an attack on women. Or that compelling those who have such questions to sign them away is not “the really important thing Canadians asked (the government) to do.” Ms. Telford and her party are so blindly convinced of the obvious rightness of their beliefs that they can’t even see the Orwellian line they have just crossed. — Bill Dykstra, Severn Bridge, Ont.