Jordan Peterson Marks Right And Left’s Side-Switch On Free Expression; The Federalist

If you do not recognize sexes beyond male and female, and you address a person by a pronoun that person does not prefer, then under Bill C-16, now law [in Canada], your action can constitute discrimination and hate speech—subject to fines and possible imprisonment. — Nathan Pinkoski in the Federalist

In his article, Nathan Pinkoski uses Psychology Professor Jordan Peterson‘s outspoken opposition to Canada’s Bill C-16, and the reaction he encountered, as a prime example of the left-right swing since the 1960’s in attitudes toward “freedom of expression, speech, and conscience.”

Pinkoski’s analysis led me to see my own experience in a new light. I’ll say more about that in a future post. — MHP

Read his article here: Jordan Peterson Marks Right And Left’s Side-Switch On Free Expression

24 comments

  1. This article does clarify something that has been seriously disorienting in the national and denominational dialogue over the past few years. If one is, and always has been, a we-hold-these-truths-to-be-self-evident-free-speech-yes-even-nazis classical liberal, one is accused of “becoming conservative,” sort of like a man on an airplane indignantly accusing objects on the ground of shrinking.

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  2. Christians were in political power for generations in America. Christians suppressed speech that they considered harmful. Christians did not like to see speech popularized if it celebrated or encouraged self-destructive behaviors (drug use, alcohol abuse, fornication, adultery, gambling; you know, all the “low” sins). The Left, however, pressed all of these issues, which were portrayed favorably in literature, then later in Hollywood, and finally on our TV screens, as the Leftists joined with the Libertarians to use American courts to overturn Christian policies.
    Is America better off for this turn of public policy? Are our families strengthened? Are individuals empowered? Are our communities more healthy?

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  3. In some ways, MJ, I would say America is better off. For instance, rates of rape and domestic violence have been declining dramatically for decades now, owing in large part to an increased willingness and ability of victims to speak up and be heard.

    Margaret Atwoods “Handmaid’s Tale,” was written during the time that Mel is talking about—when the threat to free speech appeared to come from the right, and especially the religious right. (Though, interestingly, Atwood said in an interview that she created her dystopia after learning about life under the Taliban in Afghanistan).

    Back in the 1980s, radical feminists and conservative Christians were, for a brief time, allies in an effort to outlaw pornography… more evidence that suppressing speech for the sake of the greater good is simply a human temptation to which we are all susceptible.

    What I wish more social liberals understood is that even in the bad old days, the First Amendment provided protection to “marginalized” people, for example, gays and lesbians whose publications had been banned from dissemination through the US Mail (even in a plain brown wrapper!) The SCOTUS decision did not mean that homosexuals had to be accepted by everyone—churches, families, the media and other institutions continued to be as homophobic as before—only that they have the right to express and exchange their ideas. If that exchange provided for the self-empowerment of gays and lesbians, and the general public were thus persuaded through free speech to think differently then so be it.

    One of the conservative ideas I’ve come to understand and like very much is that government is not, and should not be the only institution through which values and morals are mediated. American culture, for example, now expresses the general consensus that the “N-word”is not acceptable. While there are a lot of arcane nuances around who can say it and when (rap songs can include the word, black kids can sing along to those songs and say the word, white middle-aged ladies can bob our heads in time to the beat but shouldn’t say the word, etc.) none of these are enshrined in law. At least, so far. Knock wood.

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    1. I’d say that government has a role in determining what behaviors are so unacceptable as to be outlawed, but it’s not at all the right institution to mediate values and morals. To that extent, I’m a libertarian.

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  4. Chaplain Kate said:
    “I would say America is better off. For instance, rates of rape and domestic violence have been declining dramatically for decades now, owing in large part to an increased willingness and ability of victims to speak up and be heard.”
    .
    I do not recall conservative Christians ever saying that victims of rape or of domestic violence should not speak up. There is guilt there, though, because Christians were commonly willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the man, or to simply consider domestic strife to be private matters that should not be interfered with. And we, along with everyone else, were slow to insist that our police officers get training on how to recognize and deal with domestic violence situations.
    But I also think that domestic violence has risen because marriage has declined, drug use has exploded, gambling has become epidemic, and hook-up sex is widely available to married and unmarried persons. All of these have been on the rise in large part because countercultural expressions became the loudest voices in our popular entertainments. The Left brought down the social curbs that conservative Christians had enshrined into western society. They sewed the wind, and we are all reaping the whirlwind.

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    1. Going back doesn’t seem either possible or desirable; the hope is that we can maybe undo or mitigate some of the harm while holding on to some of the good, right? Domestic violence —at least according to statistics—has declined, not risen. (And domestic violence policy deserves a nice, iconoclastic post of its own, frankly!) But, again, while I have no wish to go back to 1980, I’d certainly like everyone (but especially children and even more especially black children) to be doing a whole lot better than they are here and now.

      This is a very strange time—phrases keep occurring to me: “pigeons coming home to roost;” and “unintended and unanticipated consequences” and “it seemed like a good idea at the time…?!”

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Chaplain Kate said:
    “Margaret Atwoods “Handmaid’s Tale,” was written during the time that Mel is talking about—when the threat to free speech appeared to come from the right, and especially the religious right. (Though, interestingly, Atwood said in an interview that she created her dystopia after learning about life under the Taliban in Afghanistan).”

    I avoided “Handmaid’s Tale” after reading the reviews. It is clearly a dystopian vision that is based on groundless fears.

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      1. My understanding is that “Handmaid’s Tale” takes Taliban-style misogynistic religious rule and changes the flavor to be reminiscent of Fundamentalist Christianity. No thanks; that is a non-starter for several reasons.

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  6. Chaplain Kate said:
    “Back in the 1980s, radical feminists and conservative Christians were, for a brief time, allies in an effort to outlaw pornography… more evidence that suppressing speech for the sake of the greater good is simply a human temptation to which we are all susceptible.”

    So you are in favor of pornography? You don’t mind the salacious magazines at the checkout, and it does not disturb you that young people are presented porn all over the internet? Do you have any idea how spiritually corrosive pornography is? It gives both men and women goofy ideas about their own sexuality. It is especially a source of wrongheaded ideas for young people. It is associated with higher rates or levels of domestic violence. It promotes the “taboo,” so it celebrates adultery, incest, pederasty and an awful assortment of other practices that lead to self-destructive behaviors and broken relationships. Pornography hurts women and pornography hurts kids and pornography hurts men and pornography hurts families.
    Sometimes there are matters of speech that should be suppressed for the sake of the greater good.

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    1. I’m not at all in favor of pornography, and, indeed, I was sympathetic toward efforts to ban it at the time, even though I still tend to be a libertarian when it comes to speech.

      I agree with you—it is spiritually corrosive and, at the very least, deeply unhelpful to young people who are attempting to understand sex and sexuality. I am grateful that, here in the U.S., pornographic magazines aren’t quite as in-your-face (or, more accurately, in-your-kid’s-face) as in Europe, where there are literally whips-n-chains displayed at a four year old’s eye level. (Though the muslim immigrants may put the kibosh on that soon enough).

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  7. Chaplain Kate said:
    “What I wish more social liberals understood is that even in the bad old days, the First Amendment provided protection to “marginalized” people, for example, gays and lesbians whose publications had been banned from dissemination through the US Mail (even in a plain brown wrapper!) The SCOTUS decision did not mean that homosexuals had to be accepted by everyone—churches, families, the media and other institutions continued to be as homophobic as before—only that they have the right to express and exchange their ideas. If that exchange provided for the self-empowerment of gays and lesbians, and the general public were thus persuaded through free speech to think differently then so be it.”

    For the past five years we have been living with a SCOTUS decision that says a vote by the people should be overturned because the majority were motivated by religious and moral concerns, and so they invalidated the Prop 8 vote of the citizens of California. In that decision they equated traditionalist religion with “hateful bigotry.” In their current term they are considering a case in which a state forced a traditionalist Christian to proclaim a message that he opposes. We have gone far from the right to express ideas and are now in the realm of forced speech.

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    1. Exactly. I think that’s Mel Pine’s point in his new post “Sticks and Stones.” It’s flipped, and even gotten worse.
      Would school prayer count as forced speech for you, MJ? I ask, because of course I say prayers before large groups, and am conscious that my audiences could feel that they were being forced to give assent (or apparent assent) to something they don’t believe in. I always feel very honored that they are willing to trust me in those moments.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Chaplain Kate said:
    “One of the conservative ideas I’ve come to understand and like very much is that government is not, and should not be the only institution through which values and morals are mediated. American culture, for example, now expresses the general consensus that the “N-word”is not acceptable. While there are a lot of arcane nuances around who can say it and when (rap songs can include the word, black kids can sing along to those songs and say the word, white middle-aged ladies can bob our heads in time to the beat but shouldn’t say the word, etc.) none of these are enshrined in law. At least, so far. Knock wood.”

    As a young man growing up in the South, it was not my government that instructed me not to use the ‘N-word.’
    It was at church where I was instructed in Sunday School to treat all persons with dignity and respect as children of God.

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    1. Exactly. And it shouldn’t be the government that says “you have to use these zippy new pronouns or else” or “you have to make a wedding cake for a ceremony that your faith does not allow you to participate in.” These are among the many, many, many things that can and should be worked out among the citizens without state coercion.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. When I was growing up we had prayers in school. Typically it was the Lord’s Prayer, but at other times it was a recognizably Baptist prayer. In 3rd grade, for the first time I had non-Christians in my class; Jews and Atheists. Since I was not (and am not) a Baptist, I had learned how to listen carefully to the prayer, adding my good wishes to the parts that I agreed with (which was most of it), and internally pleading for guidance for parts that sounded unfamiliar to me. I figured that non-Christians could simply consider it not as their prayer but as an opportunity for them to learn, as I did, about the majority faith in our community. I never heard a prayer that I thought offensive, though in later grades I learned enough doctrine to instantly recognize doctrinal statements that I objected to. By my 6th grade year, prayers in classrooms were halted, and the only corporate prayers we heard were in assemblies or at football games.
        I have declined invitations to offer corporate prayer (except at family gatherings or in my own church). I don’t mind hearing other people offer corporate prayers. I heard a Muslim offer a prayer at a County Commission meeting last year, and, considering that all assembled knew that the pray-er was a Muslim, I did not mind that, and found the prayer itself to be suitably generic for the occasion. Similarly I have heard Jewish prayer offered for a corporate assembly on occasion, and never found any reason to take offense. I never thought of corporate prayer among a mixed group to be “forced speech,” since whether or not I concur with the prayer is between me and G-d.
        Also I have heard prayers that were so generically vague that they were unrecognizable as to what was the spiritual viewpoint of the pray-er. That seemed to me to be more of an offense; the sort of lukewarm pablum that gets spewed from the mouth of G-d. [Revelation 3:15-17]

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  9. In thinking about corporate prayer, I think it matters very much how the prayer is introduced. If the prayer is to be a prayer offered on behalf of the assembly without an indication that it is our joint prayer, then I don’t mind to patiently stand and hear anybody’s prayer. I can silently pray my own prayer to assent to the parts I agree with.
    However, if the introduction includes the intent that the prayer is offered by the assembled group, then I think I need to walk out until the prayer is over. I would not want my presence to indicate my concurrence with a prayer that is not offered to the Triune G-d, Father, Son and Spirit. I would not want my participation to send the erroneous message that the nature of the prayer is unimportant to me, or that I think the mode of address of the prayer is unimportant to G-d.

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  10. A wonderful military chaplain I know said similar, wise things when I first began as a chaplain. It still seems very humbling to me. Saying “join me as you will in prayer” and having all those people bow their heads. Definitely a moment when God’s grace fills the space between what I offer and what they receive.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. In today’s Daily Wire, there’s a story about one of the newer dumb Hollywood kerfuffles, but it is also an illustration of the essential problem with trying to control or ban speech—in this case, the #MeToo feminists, wrestling with the eternal problem of whether women are strong and equal and capable of blocking a speeding locomotive with a single, red-varnished fingernail… or whether they are delicate flowers incapable of making their own decisions about whether, for example, to act in movies where they get strangled and raped and whatever else the plot requires.

    https://www.dailywire.com/news/26811/quentin-tarantino-sick-puppy-not-reasons-metoo-ben-shapiro

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