Roundtable: Mixed feelings about Monday's speaker

Over the last few years, Jordan Peterson has attracted a large volume of champions and critics in his crusade against postmodern leftism in academia, media and politics.  

Personally, I have mixed feelings about Peterson. He can be needlessly provocative and his frequent allusions to authoritarian political states are both counterproductive and somewhat hysterical. At the same time, I think he’s an intelligent voice who’s helped shed light on extremes that people go through to enforce their ideological orthodoxies. Due to the prevalence of outrage culture in liberal institutions like university campuses, disagreement over a range of conventions has increasingly become subject to whether candid discussion is even allowed to proceed in the first place. 

To be fair, the rapid expansion of this disagreement is a troubling phenomenon present at both fringes of the political spectrum. But in my four years here at Queen’s, constraints on dissent seem to emerge almost exclusively from the far left and their reflexive, indiscriminate use of extreme and damaging labels stigmatizes ostensibly neutral speech. 

Peterson’s conviction is that these constraints are wrong and I wholeheartedly agree.

Citing privilege and terms like “bigotry,” “racism” and “homophobia” can discredit an opposing viewpoint. These labels are so toxic that people are afraid to even question whether an idea is warranted, lest they be tarred with the same brush.  

Coercion doesn’t effect meaningful change. Peterson has been called a transphobe for his stance against Bill C-16, which could technically make the refusal to use a preferred gender pronoun an actionable form of harassment. But his real problem with it is that it imposes a normative framework that's unrecognizable to most people. If someone chooses to address someone else as zhe or vis, they should do so out of an internalized respect for that person’s identity, not under duress from a higher authority.

Lastly, it leaves no middle ground. This black-and-white approach is frighteningly dismissive of nuances and inconvenient facts and has alienated a lot of people with progressive, but insufficiently dogmatic views. 

Like him or not, this is one of the biggest reasons why you'll likely be unable to get a ticket to Jordan Peterson’s lecture on Monday.

Jack is a fourth-year history major.

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