Chris Selley, Simona Chiose: Two takes on the business interests of Jordan Peterson, hero of the anti-PC crowd

Interesting analysis of the business models supporting Peterson in both the National Post and Globe.

Peterson canbe judged to some extent by the company he keeps as detailed in the longer and more comprehensive Globe article:

On Sept. 1 last year, Peterson had 161 supporters on the crowdfunding site Patreon, contributing US$1,058 a month; as of this week, he had 3,609 supporters contributing an astonishing US$39,084 a month. That’s about three-and-a-half times his salary from the university. When Peterson was denied a research grant to study the link between personality and political beliefs, including belief in political correctness, Ezra Levant’s Rebel Media framed it as a left-wing conspiracy and launched a crowdfunding campaign on his behalf. It currently sits at 266 per cent of its goal: $195,230.

“It’s unbelievable. But all of it is unbelievable,” says Peterson, referring both to the money and to the last eight months in general.

Naturally, this outcome does not sit perfectly well with Peterson’s detractors on campus. “It does seem to me rather tacky that he has been posing as a victim of PC prejudice and representing himself as at risk of jail or dismissal from his job,” says Ronald de Sousa, an emeritus professor of philosophy at U of T. Lawyers’ opinions have convinced de Sousa that Peterson has nothing legitimate to fear from the law, and nothing except a “tut-tutting letter” — which he calls a “regrettable decision” — to fear from the university administration.

Physics professor A.W. Peet is rather more blunt: “He has been dehumanizing trans and gender-diverse people … for fun and profit.”

Rebel’s intervention certainly adds an edge. Peterson says he watches very little of the online news outlet’s output, which is not surprising: it is not known for its academic or journalistic rigour, or indeed for consistent sanity. At one anti-Peterson rally on the U of T campus, then-Rebel contributor Lauren Southern took the microphone as if she were an attendee, not a reporter; when organizers said they wanted to give trans people priority to speak, she lied and said she was one. Rebel contributors have included Paul Joseph Watson, a 9/11 Truther and friend of uber-conspiracist Alex Jones; Pizzagate delivery man Jack Posobiec, who was briefly Rebel’s “Washington bureau chief”; and Tommy Robinson, former leader of a gang of racist hooligans called the English Defence League. Peterson says he knows “for a fact” Levant isn’t Islamophobic, noting they were recently at a meeting with several moderate Canadian Muslims. But the network did spend the hours after the massacre at a Quebec City mosque torquing garden-variety confusion into a conspiracy theory that the killer was, in fact, Muslim.

Peterson says he would always prefer his work be associated solely with himself but that he’s “disinclined to look a gift horse in the mouth.” Peet has no qualms with crowdfunding academic research per se, but thinks there should be rules governing it — for example, when a third party like Rebel intervenes on a professor’s behalf. Such guidelines are under development at U of T, says spokesperson Althea Blackburn-Evans. But if they put any crimp in Peterson’s plans, he could easily make up the difference some other way.

If Peterson’s fundraising numbers are astounding, perhaps the astounded have underestimated the fury being inspired by modern preoccupations like white privilege and cultural appropriation, and by the marginalization, shouting down or outright cancellation of other viewpoints in polite society’s institutions. The biggest applause line at last weekend’s Conservative Party of Canada leadership convention came when winner Andrew Scheer promised to withhold federal funding from universities that “shut down debate.”

“It’s (bad) enough that the media elites find the views of many conservatives unfashionable or outré,” says one Conservative strategist, describing the mood among party supporters. “Now the trendline on university campuses seems to be to ban any expression of conservative ideas … or any questioning of liberal orthodoxy.”

Peterson is by no means appealing only to reactionaries or partisan conservatives, however. His YouTube channel, which has 290,000 subscribers, is not a source of Rebel-style rants and conspiracies. Recent videos include the first two of his ongoing 12-part lecture series, The Psychological Significance of The Biblical Stories. (Some of his crowdfunding money went toward renting the Isabel Bader Theatre at U of T for the series, but he says he made it back through ticket sales.) His Patreon account promises “lectures about profound psychological ideas.”

“History has shown that political correctness, and all that comes with it, is the first step on a very dark path,” says Philip Sibbering, a games designer in the U.K. who contributed to the Rebel-sponsored crowdfunding effort. Sibbering notes the intellectual intolerance of the Nazis, which all of society now rejects, and of the Marxists, which all of society does not. “Any research that could allow us to understand the root cause and effect that brings political correctness into being is vital.”

Stephen Kaiser-Pendergast, a film editor based in Los Angeles and another crowdfunding contributor, first discovered Peterson through his interviews with Dave Rubin and Joe Rogan, two prominent critics of political correctness. (The interviews have 185,000 and 1.9 million views on YouTube, respectively.) “Working in narrative film, I have a vested interest in any kind of remedy for politically correct thinking, which I see as among the most significant of threats to artistic expression,” he says. “However, I mostly remain on his (YouTube) channel for the academic material. I have had a lifelong interest in understanding human behaviour and I find Prof. Peterson’s channel to be a treasure-trove.”

Peterson has big plans, and money to make them happen. He plans to curate “a series of conversations with moderate Muslims about the possibility of developing a bridge between that faith and the fundamental beliefs of the West.” It began on Thursday when he interviewed Ayaan Hirsi Ali (though she is more of a former Muslim than a moderate one). [a rabid anti-Muslim activist would be a more accurate description]

Source: Chris Selley: Jordan Peterson, hero of the anti-PC crowd, just keeps winning | National Post

The Globe’s Simona Chiose also covers the story more in depth from a more critical angle, along with analysis of follower comments:

Prof. Peterson’s vociferous defence of free speech isn’t new to universities. What is new, however, is the way that social media has amplified the discourse – and “weaponized” and globalized this long-running drama. The professor’s unrelenting stance has earned him scores of angry critics, but the attention has also helped him rack up followers. He now has almost 300,000 subscribers on YouTube and thousands of patrons on Patreon, a crowd-funded subscription content site where he earns more than $30,000 a month. On Twitter, his followers hail from Shanghai and Berlin, St. Petersburg and Pune, Toronto and San Francisco. And under the guise of anonymity, these anti-PC warriors can harass their opponents through posts, memes and videos and organize campaigns on no-holds-barred message boards.

The existence of this parallel, online space is hardly mentioned in free speech debates or arises only in lateral mentions of concerns about “safety on campus.”

But an investigation into the controversy around Jordan Peterson shows how this world grows and operates. With his vast online reach, Prof. Peterson has attracted small volunteer armies willing to defend his views. The Globe and Mail reviewed hundreds of pages of discussions about Prof. Peterson and his views on anonymous message boards, including 4chan and voat – two of the least moderated or monitored online forums. The conversations, which range from immature to obscene, show that the professor’s critics were the subjects of “doxing” campaigns, where activists are personally identified and harassed online.

Prof. Peterson says he can’t be held responsible for the harassment that his critics endure online, however, and justifies his hardline position on free speech by saying it allows hateful views to be exposed to the cleansing light of day.

“It’s extraordinarily dangerous to drive hate speech underground,” he said in a conversation last fall. “There are a lot of terrible things that people shouldn’t say, but that does not mean you should stop them from saying them, because you want to know who is saying them and you want to bring discourse to bear on their perspective,” he said.

In short, Jordan Peterson has redefined the notion of the faculty celebrity and pushed the university into new territory, trying to decide what protecting free speech means in the age of Internet trolls.

How U of T’s Jordan Peterson has made money from online notoriety

Donald Trump could happen in Canada. It’s already begun. – Macleans.ca

Some good analysis and questions regarding the resilience of Canadian politics to Trump-style politics, focussing on the ugliness in the Alberta PC leadership campaign and the Leitch/Blaney campaign approaches.

Starting with Charlie Gillis:

The question, say experts, is whether support for such ideas could galvanize into a Trump-style movement. Ice-breakers like Blaney and Leitch are exploiting the same rural-urban cultural divide that Trump did in the U.S., acknowledges Clark Banack, a Brock University political scientist who studies populist movements. But the kind of anti-elitist discontent that moves votes is seldom seen in Canada outside the West, Banack notes, and when it arises elsewhere, it tends to be short-lived. “We have sporadic examples of people emerging for a short time around a specific issue,” he says, citing Rob Ford’s rise to the Toronto mayoralty on the strength of working-class, suburban anger. “But overall, Canadian political culture is less susceptible to populism than American political culture.”

Another mitigating factor: the relative absence in Canada of a dispossessed working class in a mood to punish its leaders. David Green, a professor at the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver School of Economics, believes Trump’s support base of white men with no college degree would be hard to replicate in this country because the commodities boom sustained Canada’s blue-collar workers, even as the financial crisis crushed the dreams of their counterparts in other countries. Between 2003 and 2015, he notes in a forthcoming paper, mean hourly wages for Americans with a high school education or less fell by six per cent; for the same demographic in Canada, they climbed eight per cent. The effect, he says, was to slow the growth of the economic gap that has fed voter rage in the U.S., the U.K. and parts of Europe. Last year, our top 10 per cent of earners made 8.6 times on average what the bottom 10 per cent pulled in—a ratio that, while high, falls beneath the OECD average and far below the U.S. ratio of 19 to one.

But all that could change, Green warns, if oil prices remain low—especially if the housing market weakens at the same time. The country’s residential construction boom, he notes, has maintained job centres around the country’s large cities, putting more than a few displaced oil patch employees to work. “What do you do with that set of less-than-university-educated guys—the demographic that switched over to Trump?” Green asks. “That’s a potentially worrying connection.”

More so, agrees Banack, if you have a high-minded central government that overlooks their misfortune while pursuing its own pre-occupations. Running against Ottawa, he notes, is a time-tested stratagem for populist movements in Canada, and these days, few national governments are more closely identified with the globalist program of trade, labour mobility and climate-change action than Justin Trudeau’s Liberals. Something like Trudeau’s promised national carbon tax, which will be felt keenly in the West, could be enough to trigger a populist insurgency in Alberta, he says, though it’s safe to assume the federal Conservative party would do everything it could to stop such a movement, given the outcome of the Reform party experiment: “Another vote split, and you could forget about a Conservative federal government for another 10 or 15 years.”

Maybe, but experienced political players are no longer sure economic logic and conventional political calculus are in force. Carter, the Alberta strategist, notes that the online communities where so-called “alt-right” voters congregate—Facebook groups, or conspiracy-fuelled sites like Infowars—don’t traffic in that sort of information. In its place: a strain of fanaticism typified by the onslaught that ran Jansen off the PC stage, which Carter believes is sure to spread. “I don’t know if it’s Trump or social media or just belief that they’re correct that gives a sense of permission,” he says. “But this is not normal.”

Gary Mason in the Globe picks up similar themes:

The Premier and her party are now sitting at 14 per cent in the polls. The party receiving the most support in recent public opinion surveys is the Progressive Conservatives, the same entity Mr. Kenney plans to destroy if he wins the leadership. He wants to build a new political organization that Wildrose members will feel comfortable joining as part of an overarching bid to unify conservative forces in the province.

Either way, Alberta seems to be preparing to make an ideological course correction.

There’s little doubt the rise of Donald Trump has emboldened many in the province. One of those would appear to be Derek Fildebrandt, a Wildrose MLA and one of the most powerful conservative voices in Alberta.

He has little patience for the likes of Ms. Jansen and others complaining about online trolls and provocateurs. “Hypersensitive, politically correct, victim-as-virtue culture is creating a leadership class of wimps,” he wrote in a tweet that could have been sent out by The Donald himself. “People are sick of it.”

After Mr. Trump was elected, Mr. Fildebrandt tweeted: “The biggest lesson that we should learn from the election of Trump: smug, condescending political correctness will spark a backlash.”

I’m not sure what is happening in Alberta, but on almost any level it’s not good. Trump-style politics could well be making its way north of the border. At the end of the day, however, society gets the politicians it deserves.

Source: Not so progressive: Trump-style politics seep into Alberta