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Jordan Peterson Goes to ‘War’ Abigail Anthony

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Dr. Jordan Peterson has been ordered to undergo a coaching program to “reflect on and ameliorate” his conduct in public statements. (Carlos Osorio via Getty Images)

Jordan Peterson does not lack for people who seek his counsel. The psychologist’s YouTube channel boasts over seven million subscribers. His podcast has accumulated more than 55 million downloads. And his book, 12 Rules for Life, has sold over five million copies.

But a court in Canada has just ruled that if he does not undergo mandatory social media training—what he calls “forced reeducation”—he could lose his clinical license, and with it, any right to counsel patients. 

“I knew that the judiciary in Canada had been captured politically,” Peterson told The Free Press on Wednesday. “But I had no idea to what extent that was true.

“The founding documents we put into place in the 1980s are barely worth the paper they’re written on,” he added. 

Most of Peterson’s work is technical. (Even the titles of his research are intimidating, like his 2007 paper “Reducing memory distortions in egoistic self-enhancers: Effects of indirect social facilitation.”) Other projects by Peterson are completely anodyne, like his guide and program to improve essay writing

That’s not what the Ontario Court has taken issue with.

The problem isn’t his clinical practice or his academic research. It’s his worldview. Specifically, his tweets and a few podcast comments, which the College of Psychologists of Ontario, a licensing body for psychologists in the province, considered “unprofessional.”

“The percentage of people who actively oppose what I’m saying is very, very tiny,” Peterson said. “But some of them are extremely committed. And so they can bring disproportionate sway to the decision.”

Peterson has been a member of the College of Psychologists of Ontario since 1999. According to Peterson, the CPO never levied any charges against him prior to his “rise to public prominence six years ago.”

Since 2018, the CPO has received around a dozen complaints—some submitted informally via Twitter—about Peterson’s comments on social media and podcasts.

In 2020, the CPO investigated Peterson and, in the end, recommended only that he offer commentary in “a respectful tone in order to avoid a negative perception toward the profession of psychology.” But in March 2022, it opened a second investigation after reportedly receiving more complaints. 

“When I went through the charges, I had a lot of apprehension because I presumed that I would be shown to have been incautious in ways that I hadn’t considered,” Peterson told The Free Press. “But after I went through all the charges, I thought that this was so preposterous that I couldn’t even conjure up any guilt.

“Six of the complaints were levied by people who falsely claimed in writing to be clients of mine,” Peterson continued. He insists that none of the complaints were lodged by any of his actual clients. (He no longer maintains a clinical practice, and he last treated patients in 2017.)

Some reports to the CPO cited Peterson’s reference to Elliot Page as “Ellen,” and using feminine pronouns for the actor who self-identifies as “nonbinary” and a “transgender guy”; calling a senior aide of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a “prik” [sic]; describing Sports Illustrated plus-size cover model Yumi Nu as “not beautiful”; and blasting an Ottawa City Councillor as an “appalling self-righteous moralizing thing.”

The CPO determined that Peterson “appeared to be engaging in degrading comments about a former client and making demeaning jokes” during a January 25, 2022 appearance on Joe Rogan’s podcast. When discussing child deaths resulting from air pollution, Peterson said, “It’s just poor children, and the world has too many people on it anyways.” Rogan responded with, “You’re being facetious,” to which Peterson said, “Yeah, yeah, definitely.” 

“The allegations were so overtly political that it’s really beyond question,” Peterson told The Free Press. “No one is disputing the fact that two of the complaints literally focus on criticisms of Trudeau.”

And yet the CPO determined that Peterson’s comments may be “degrading, demeaning, and unprofessional” and pose “moderate risks of harm to the public.” 

“These potential harms include undermining public trust in the profession of psychology, and trust in the College’s ability to regulate the profession in the public interest,” the CPO wrote. “Public statements of this nature may also raise questions about Dr. Peterson’s ability to appropriately carry out his responsibilities as a registered psychologist.”

Peterson scoffs at this. “There’s incontrovertible evidence that I’ve helped millions of people. And if I happen to annoy six while helping millions, that’s actually not a bad ratio.” 

In November 2022, the CPO ordered Peterson to undergo a “coaching program” to “review, reflect on, and ameliorate [his] professionalism in public statements.” It required a coach’s approval to confirm he had successfully completed the program. Peterson’s failure to comply would possibly “constitute professional misconduct” that could result in the loss of his clinical license. 

“I believe that what I said was my responsibility to say and that it was correct,” Peterson told The Free Press. “And that’s especially true on the trans front because I think that this forced sterilization of minors that’s aided and abetted by lying, cowardly, mendacious therapists is literally a crime against humanity. And there’s no way I’m standing for that, and I’m certainly not apologizing for opposing it with every fiber of my being.”

On December 30, 2022, Peterson filed for judicial review with the Ontario Divisional Court, claiming that his free expression rights were violated and that the CPO had committed procedural errors. But yesterday, the court dismissed his application, concluding that “the [CPO’s] order is not disciplinary and does not prevent Dr. Peterson from expressing himself on controversial topics.” 

“That’s so comical,” Peterson said. “First of all, it was put forward by a disciplinary board, second it’s mandatory, third if I don’t comply they suspend my license, fourth I have to pay for it, fifth it is of indeterminate length.

“If it’s not disciplinary, then what the hell is it?” 

Peterson risks losing his license if he does not undergo the media training. He is also ordered to pay $25,000 CAD to the CPO. 

Even if Peterson ultimately loses his license, a man with his following on social media can’t ever be “cancelled.” (And he no longer sees patients anyway.) The more chilling effect of the court’s decision is that it acts as an intimidation toward all other clinical psychologists: self-censor if you share Peterson’s views, or face punishment.

“In all of the areas in which we see pervasive self-censorship, it only takes one example for people to become unwilling to speak their mind. Or even one threat,” Pamela Paresky, a psychologist and author, told The Free Press. “When people say that cancel culture isn’t real because they don’t see people that have legitimately been cancelled, they don’t understand that cancel culture isn’t about the cancelling, it’s about the culture. And it’s a culture of fear.”

So, what does it all mean?

“War,” Peterson said. “It’s my goddamn license. They don’t get to take it. They’re not taking it from me.” 

Abigail Anthony (@abigailandwords) is a summer intern at The Free Press. 

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Also: We’re hosting our first live debate on September 13 at the Ace Theatre in Los Angeles! Has the sexual revolution failed? Come argue about it and have a drink. We can’t wait to meet you in person. You can purchase tickets now at thefp.com/debates.

 

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TGIF: WWIII May Come Tomorrow, But. . . Nellie Bowles

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Google employees protesting at the office. They were later fired. (Via X)

Welcome back. World War III watch over here continues. The Axis of Resistance seemed ready to kick off a major war, but then our Ayatollah stood down. The Houthi Youth at Columbia University camped out in solidarity, but the rebellion was short. Then, at press time, Israel struck back against Iran, so World War Watch resumed. You know what helps my stress? A good book. This one, by your faithful soldier, is out May 14.

→ Trump’s Gettysburg Address: Before Trump hit the campaign trail, I’d forgotten a little what he sounds like. In the amber of my mind, he was just “MAGA” and “Shithole countries” on a loop. Now, thanks to a campaign speech Saturday in Schnecksville, PA, we are back in the game with the craziest American orator who’s ever been in the game. The topic was Gettysburg. And our former president gave an impromptu slam poetry interpretation that left me snapping. 

Gettysburg, what an unbelievable battle that was. I mean, it was so much and so interesting and so vicious and horrible and so beautiful in so many different ways. It represented such a big portion of the success of this country. Gettysburg, wow. I go to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to look and to watch. And the statement of Robert E. Lee—who’s no longer in favor—did you ever notice that? He’s no longer in favor. “Never fight uphill, me boys, never fight uphill.” They were fighting uphill. He said, “Wow, that was a big mistake.” He lost his great general. They were fighting, “Never fight uphill, me boys,” but it was too late.

Vicious and horrible and beautiful. And the sun that blazes over the October sky. Who will watch the watcher? Who will sing the song of the lonely? Check out my self-published novel in the back, Trump says. 

→ Biden continues paying off successful young voters: Sorry, I mean “forgiving student debt.” Biden this week paid off another $7.4 billion in student loans, making his total student loan cancellation something like $153 billion. And by cancellation, I mean tax dollars were used to make the ledger go to zero. How much exactly? From Penn Wharton’s analysis: “We estimate that President Biden’s recently announced ‘New Plans’ to provide relief to student borrowers will cost $84 billion, in addition to the $475 billion that we previously estimated for President Biden’s SAVE plan.” But that goes to really needy people, right? Well, actually, at least 750,000 of those households are “making over $312,000 in average household income.” Meanwhile, to anyone who questions this allocation of resources, the White House answer is to shame them from official White House accounts by listing how much in pandemic loans were forgiven for House Republicans who own individual small business, which is weird because the reason businesses needed pandemic relief was because the White House banned them from operating. It’s a trap! And the only answer is to pay off every Media Studies PhD student’s loan. Colleges, for their part, are now charging up to $100,000 a year. Yes, literally. And since that’s ultimately going to be paid for by the taxpayers, why work to make it less expensive? Why cut corners when you need to remodel the cafeteria?

→ Oh, RFK’s running mate: For a flash I was thinking, Am I an RFK voter? I’m a mom who worries about plastics, and no, I don’t like how our national conversation is getting so divisive these days. And those steely blue eyes. It just felt right. But this week, my love affair hit a snag. Here’s RFK’s new vice-presidential pick, Nicole Shanahan, arguing that the Covid vaccine is not just bad, that it’s not just something she personally doesn’t want and should have the freedom to choose not to take, but that it should be banned. Over to Nicole: “Here is the devastating reality: it is not a safe vaccine, and must be recalled immediately. Many people are suffering who took it.” I guess this is really the agenda: RFK Jr. might be just asking questions, but if Nicole is chief executive, it sounds like she’s going to be executing. And that looks like legally required sound baths and astrology readings. The government understands that you want to take antibiotics, but you haven’t even tried rubbing yourself in honey yet. 

→ Wow, Kari Lake comes out as really pro-choice: Kari Lake, the Republican running for Senate in Arizona, has released a video about how she disagrees with Arizona’s total abortion ban, a ban she previously supported. I’m all for mind-changing. I actually want our politicians to put their finger to the wind every once in a while. Here’s Lake: “We as American people don’t agree on everything all of the time. But if you look at where the population is on this—a full ban on abortion is not where the people are.” 

She says, “I chose life, but I’m not every woman.” She pivots to Europe, which has all those annoyingly sensible abortion laws, and which is my exact same move: “I had the opportunity to visit Hungary, and it completely changed my view of how we should deal with this complicated, difficult issue.”

Is this Kari Lake sounding normal? In case you need to be reminded of the old Kari, here she is shaking hands with a statue. 

→ Oh no, “get out the vote” helps. . . Trump? Now that young people are for Trump and old people are for Biden, there’s another switcheroo: those who vote less or have never voted are more likely to be Trumpers. Call off the Rock the Vote campaigners! Return the blue t-shirts! The new message for Democrats to win needs to be: do not register new voters. Keep on keeping on. Stay home, save lives.


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April 18, 2024 Heather Cox Richardson

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I will not spend the rest of 2024 focusing on Trump and the chaos in the Republican Party, but today it has been impossible to look away.

In Trump’s election interference trial in Manhattan, Judge Juan Merchan this morning dismissed one of the selected jurors after she expressed concern for her anonymity and thus for her safety. All of the reporters in the courtroom have shared so much information about the jurors that they seemed at risk of being identified, but Fox News Channel host Jesse Watters not only ran a video segment about a juror, he suggested she was “concerning.” Trump shared the video on social media.

The juror told the judge that so much information about her had become public that her friends and family had begun to ask her if she was one of the jurors. Legal analyst Joyce White Vance noted jurors’ fear for their safety was a concern normally seen only “in a case involving violent organized crime.”

Nonetheless, by the end of the day, twelve people had been chosen to serve as jurors. Tomorrow the process will continue in order to find six alternate jurors. 

It is a courtesy for the two sides at a trial to share with each other the names of their next witnesses so the other team can prepare for them. Today the prosecution declined to provide the names of their first three witnesses to the defense lawyers out of concern that Trump would broadcast them on social media. “Mr. Trump has been tweeting about the witnesses. We’re not telling them who the witnesses are,” prosecutor Joshua Steinglass said. 

Merchan said he “can’t blame them.” Trump’s defense attorney Todd Blanche offered to “commit to the court and the [prosecution] that President Trump will not [post] about any witness” on social media. “I don’t think you can make that representation,” Merchan said, in a recognition that Trump cannot be trusted, even by his own lawyers.

An article in the New York Times today confirmed that the trial will give Trump plenty of publicity, but not the kind that he prefers. Lawyer Norman L. Eisen walked through questions about what a prison sentence for Trump could look like.

Trump’s popular image is taking a hit in other ways, as well. Zac Anderson and Erin Mansfield of USA Today reported that Trump is funneling money from his campaign fundraising directly into his businesses. According to a new report filed with the Federal Election Commission, in February and March the campaign wrote checks totaling $411,287 to Mar-a-Lago and in March a check for $62,337 to Trump National Doral Miami.

Experts say it is legal for candidates to pay their own businesses for services used by the campaign so long as they pay fair market value. At the same time, they note that since Trump appears to be desperate for money, “it looks bad.”

Astonishingly, Trump’s trial was not the biggest domestic story today. Republicans in Congress were in chaos as members of the extremist Freedom Caucus worked to derail the national security supplemental bills that House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) has introduced in place of the Senate bill, although they track that bill closely. 

The House Rules Committee spent the day debating the foreign aid package, which appropriates aid for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan separately. The Israel bill also contains $9.1 billion in humanitarian aid for Gaza and other countries. A fourth bill focuses on forcing the Chinese owners of TikTok to sell the company, as well as on imposing sanctions on Russia and Iran. 

At stake in the House Rules Committee was Johnson’s plan to allow the House to debate and vote on each measure separately, and then recombine them all into a single measure if they all pass. This would allow extremist Republicans to vote against aid to Ukraine, while still tying the pieces all together to send to the Senate. As Robert Jimison outlined in the New York Times, this complicated plan meant that the Rules Committee vote to allow such a maneuver was crucial to the bill’s passage.

The extremist House Republicans were adamantly opposed to the plan because of their staunch opposition to aid for Ukraine. They wrote in a memo on Wednesday: “This tactic allows Johnson to pass priorities favored by President Biden, the swamp and the Ukraine war machine with a supermajority of House members, leaving conservatives out to dry.”

Extremists Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Thomas Massie (R-KY) vowed to throw House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) out of the speakership, but Democrats Tom Suozzi of New York and Jared Moskowitz of Florida have said they would vote to keep him in his seat, thereby defanging the attack on his leadership.

So the extremists instead tried to load the measures up with amendments prohibiting funds from being used for abortion, removing humanitarian aid for Gaza, opposing a two-state solution to the Hamas-Israel war, calling for a wall at the southern border of the U.S., defunding the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and so on.

Greene was especially active in opposition to aid to Ukraine. She tried to amend the bill to direct the president to withdraw the U.S. from NATO and demanded that any members of Congress voting for aid to Ukraine be conscripted into the Ukraine army as well as have their salaries taken to offset funding. She wanted to stop funding until Ukraine “turns over all information related to Hunter Biden and Burisma,” and to require Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to resign. More curiously, she suggested amending the Ukraine bill so that funding would require “restrictions on ethnic minorities’, including Hungarians in Transcarpathia, right to use their native languages in schools are lifted.” This language echoes a very specific piece of Russian propaganda.

Finally, Moskowitz proposed “that Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene…should be appointed as Vladimir Putin’s Special Envoy to the United States Congress.” 

Many congress members have left Washington, D.C., since Friday was to be the first day of a planned recess. This meant the partisan majority on the floor fluctuated. Olivia Beavers of Politico reported that that instability made Freedom Caucus members nervous enough to put together a Floor Action Response Team (FART—I am not making this up) to make sure other Republicans didn’t limit the power of the extremists when they were off the floor.

The name of their response team seems likely to be their way to signal their disrespect for the entire Congress. Their fellow Republicans are returning the heat. Today Mike Turner (R-OH) referred to the extremists as the Bully Caucus on MSNBC and said, “We need to get back to professionalism, we need to get back to governing, we need to get back to legislating.” Derrick Van Orden (R-WI) told Juliegrace Brufke of Axios:  “The vast majority of the Republican Party in the House of Representatives…are sick and tired of having people who…constantly blackmail the speaker of the House.”

Another Republican representative, Jake LaTurner of Kansas, announced today he will not run for reelection. He joins more than 20 other Republican representatives heading for the exits.

After all the drama, the House Rules Committee voted 6–3 tonight to advance the foreign aid package to the House floor. Three Republicans voted nay. While it is customary for the opposition party to vote against advancing bills out of the committee, the Democrats broke with tradition and voted in favor.

Notes:

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/04/18/opinion/donald-trump-trial-prison.html

https://www.politico.com/live-updates/2024/04/18/congress/hfc-on-alert-00153097

https://www.jns.org/house-rules-committee-debates-israel-aid-package-as-house-speaker-confronts-right-flank/

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/donald-trump-new-york-court-criminal-trial/

https://www.thedailybeast.com/jesse-watters-goes-juror-by-juror-to-sow-doubt-in-trump-hush-money-case

https://www.salon.com/2024/04/18/juror-quits-over-fear-of-being-outed-after-fox-news-host-singled-her-out/

https://www.rawstory.com/jake-laturner/#cxrecs_s

https://www.cnn.com/2024/04/18/politics/mike-johnson-speakership-rules

https://www.rawstory.com/freedom-caucus-2667810851/

https://rules.house.gov/bill/118/hr-8034

https://rules.house.gov/bill/118/hr-8035

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2024/04/18/trump-campaign-funnels-money-to-his-businesses/73344744007/

https://www.axios.com/2024/04/18/mike-johnson-gaetz-motion-to-vacate-ukraine

https://www.axios.com/2024/04/18/jake-laturner-retire-house-gop-kansas

https://www.axios.com/2024/03/27/house-members-retiring-quitting-productivity

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/04/18/us/politics/house-israel-ukraine-aid-package-explainer.html

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April 17, 2024 Heather Cox Richardson

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