Leftist city officials in Durham, N.C., are trying to censor conservative academic Jordan B. Peterson by denying him a platform for an upcoming local talk about his bestselling self-help book.
This attack on Peterson is part of a larger assault on conservatives’ free speech rights in the Trump era. Demonstrators have shut down or tried to shut down Charles Murray, Milo Yiannopoulos, Ben Shapiro, Ann Coulter, Mark Levin, and David Horowitz, to name a few targets. Social media companies brazenly discriminate against conservatives and the crimes of former IRS official Lois Lerner against conservative activist groups remain unprosecuted.
Peterson is a former Harvard clinical psychology professor who is scheduled to speak Sept. 10 at the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC), which is owned by the City of Durham. Contrary to local media reports, he was not invited to speak by DPAC: he rented the venue.
The date is part of a speaking tour to promote his acclaimed self-help book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. Durham won’t be Peterson’s first appearance in an intellectually hostile left-wing urban center in the U.S. Now a professor at the University of Toronto in Canada, he has already spoken in New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Austin, Texas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland, Ore.
Peterson’s talk on “Identity Politics and the Marxist Lie of White Privilege” at a conference held last fall in Washington, D.C., helped to bring his message to a new audience and may have played a role in his meteoric rise.
The radical office-holders in charge in Durham are terrified of Peterson, what he represents, and what he might say on their turf.
Perhaps for good reason.
If you have any doubt what is motivating this fear among left-wingers, just watch Peterson’s merciless, masterful dismantling of UK’s Channel 4 reporter Cathy Newman’s tired old feminist and leftist talking points. Peterson is utterly fearless, always amply armed with facts, and intellectually intimidating.
This could help explain why Durham Mayor Pro Tempore Jillian Johnson posted a unanimously-endorsed city council statement on Facebook in hopes of creating the political pressure needed to shut Peterson down.
The bizarre document amounts to a passive-aggressive defense of free speech protections in the First Amendment. The city council claims to support Peterson’s right to express himself in public but at the same time wants him to refrain from exercising this right.
Peterson attacked the city council statement, calling it "a conceptually brutal mishmash of self-righteousness, indignation and utter moral and political confusion." It is “one of the purest demonstrations I have yet seen of the tendency for the ideologically possessed to use denouncement tactically as a means to amplify and exaggerate personal or identity-group virtue.”
Stopping someone from speaking is called no-platforming (or sometimes de-platforming). In “Repressive Tolerance,” the late Brandeis University professor Herbert Marcuse, the so-called father of the New Left, favored shutting down non-leftists on the theory that fascists, or those merely smeared as fascists by leftists, are not entitled to free speech.
The city’s complaint begins with an attempt to intimidate Dr. Peterson, along with predictably dishonest leftist drivel about the intellectual content of his work.
We would like to be clear that we respect Mr. Peterson’s right to hold his opinions and to freely state his opinions without government interference. However, we wish to emphasize that a person’s right to free speech does not include the right to a platform or an audience. As many in our community have been disturbed and angered by Mr. Peterson’s racist, misogynist, and transphobic views, we would like to use this opportunity to reiterate our commitments and values to all of you as your elected representatives.
The smearing continues in a kind of municipal mission statement that checks off all the politically correct boxes.
We believe that Durham is a place for all of us - black, white, Asian, Latinx, indigenous, and mixed-race, trans and cis, gay and lesbian, queer, and straight, disabled and able-bodied, young and elderly, women, men, and non-binary, native and immigrant, secular and people of faith. Those who seek to exclude or deny the humanity of others will find no comfort here.
We believe that everyone in our city should have the opportunity to thrive in an equitable and inclusive community. We understand that this opportunity has been intentionally and unjustly denied to many of our residents on the basis of race, class, gender, and other aspects of their identities. We are committed to taking action to remedy these injustices.
The city council suggests that Peterson is some kind of fascistic control freak whose ideas would somehow turn America into The Handmaid’s Tale.
The city council continues implying Peterson is guilty of a laundry list of offenses, but without providing any evidence:
We believe that violence against women is horrific and unacceptable under any circumstances. Women do not owe anyone access to or any level of control over their bodies or sexuality. We honor trans and non-binary residents and believe that respecting each other requires a commitment to using the names and pronouns that each of us identifies with. We will do all that we can to ensure that trans and non-binary people feel safe and respected in our community.
We invite the Durham community to recommit ourselves to these values as a city and a community and to reject and resist bigotry wherever we encounter it.
In other words, according to this nonsense Jordan B. Peterson is an enemy of the people who must be stopped.
Peterson tore the statement apart.
"Everything that is reprehensible about the radical and ideologically-possessed left – all the moral self-righteousness, the platitudes, the clichés, the mindless celebration of diversity for the sake of the demonstration of tolerance, the naivete, and the appalling malevolence of casual denunciation – is on painful display in this missive," he wrote.
The leftist hysteria in Durham is more than a little familiar to those of us who witnessed the Left’s apoplectic spasms over the rise of academic Camille Paglia, the refreshingly un-PC liberal lesbian whose 1990 book Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson, spurned outrage on university campuses at the time groaning under the yoke of repressive, male-hating, radical feminism.
Durham is Ground Zero for faddish leftist boycotts.
Last week at least five Durham officials aligned themselves with Antifa as they signed a letter demanding the abolition of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
In April, Durham became the first American city to bar its police from training in Israel. “The Israeli Defense Forces and the Israel Police have a long history of violence and harm against Palestinian people and Jews of Color,” according to a resolution approved unanimously by the city council.
Last year the Durham City Council cheered on radical groups that unlawfully ripped down a Confederate war memorial at city hall. Prosecutions fizzled out before they even got started.
The toxic leftism of Durham officials has ruined lives.
No one will soon forget how an overzealous, racist prosecutor and scores of local academics tried to lynch three white members of the Duke University men’s lacrosse team after they were accused of the March 13, 2006 gang rape of black exotic dancer Crystal Gail Mangum that never happened. In the end, politically correct button-pusher Mike Nifong (D), the out-of-control district attorney in Durham, was disgraced, disbarred, and found guilty of contempt. Duke and Durham have never recovered from the disgraceful incident whose shadow still hangs over the community.
Clearly Durham has not learned its lesson.