This is the first article in The New McCarthyism series about how the radical left unfairly maligns those who oppose their ideas.
Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, a Canadian university professor, identifies as a classic British liberal, but his opposition to the progressive shift in higher education has led media outlets, activists, and fellow professors to label him “far right” and compare him to Adolf Hitler.
In a conversation with The Daily Caller, Dr. Peterson discussed how such labels and libelous attacks are used to shut down debate and to “contribute to this increased polarization.”
“We’re in a situation now where if you disagree vociferously with the radical left, then you’re immediately regarded as an exemplar of the opposite extreme,” he told TheDC. “That’s not good, and in my case it’s certainly not true.”
Dr. Peterson, a psychologist, first gained international attention last year when he announced that he would not use genderless pronouns such as “ze” and “zir.” He took specific aim at B c-16, an amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code that would prevent discrimination based on “gender identity and gender expression.” Peterson feared that the amendment would criminalize his refusal to refer to people with their preferred pronouns.
“I’ve studied authoritarianism for a very long time — for 40 years — and they’re started by people’s attempts to control the ideological and linguistic territory,” Peterson told the BBC in 2016.
His resistance to genderless pronouns led to anger and protests, but Peterson continued to offer critiques of common progressive tropes like postmodern feminism, white privilege, and cultural appropriation.
In August, after interviewing the author of the Google diversity memo, a Business Insider article referred to Peterson as “far right.” The article was later edited after Peterson complained.
“I emailed the reporter and I said, ‘What’s this about? Find me one thing I’ve said that qualifies as far right,” Peterson recalled. “So he changed it right away without even an apology, without any consideration whatsoever about the impact of his libelous speech.”
As Peterson explained in his email to the Business Insider reporter, he has spent years lecturing against national socialism and has repeatedly denounced the evils of Hitler, nationalism, and the modern alt-right.
“As soon as that one story was published, then it was echoed. You know how things are reprinted without any real investigation,” he said.
The mischaracterization spread and has had an impact on Dr. Peterson’s ability to teach, to do events on campuses, and to live peacefully in his own neighborhood.
“I had a free speech panel…at Ryerson University that was shut down by people who called us Nazis,” he remembered. “It was a panel on the shutting down of free speech on college campuses and the university shut it down…two of the other panelists were Jewish.”
“There were posters put around my neighborhood recently calling me a menace to the community and making the same sorts of accusations, being called a ‘Nazi philosopher.’ It’s really quite remarkable, because, as I said, since 1985…I’ve devoted a large section of all of my classes to the discussion of the catastrophes of the far right,” Peterson said. “The accusations are just beyond belief.”
Most recently, Peterson was compared to Adolf Hitler by a professor at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario.
Teaching assistant Lindsay Shepherd showed a public access video of a debate featuring Dr. Peterson to her students, explaining that she showed it “neutrally” to teach her students that they needed to listen to all sides before they reach a conclusion on an issue.
Shepherd’s supervising professor, Dr. Nathan Rambukkana, sanctioned her for showing the video, and told her that neutrally showing a video of Peterson is tantamount to “neutrally playing a speech by Hitler.” Rambukkana was eventually forced to apologize for his comments and for sanctioning Shepherd.
“To casually banter those terms around is an insult to the survivors and to the memory of the people who went through those things,” Peterson said. “There’s absolutely no doubt that it’s part of a campaign to discredit me. Some of it is carelessness but…some of it is far more insidious than that.”
Not only is labeling him “far right” incorrect, the psychology professor asserted, but it demonstrates the left’s inability to engage in real debate.
“Their arguments are weak. They’re pure ideology and you can easily exhaust their rhetorical skills…because they only know about five tricks,” he argued. “And the first trick is to accuse you of being all the things they see as being in radical opposition to their viewpoints.”
Dr. Peterson’s next fight will likely be against the gender and women’s studies departments at the University of Toronto. He said that several weeks ago professors in those departments tried to get the university to discipline him “by using the same sort of slurs.”
“Their idea fundamentally is that no reasonable person could be opposed to radical Marxist viewpoints,” he asserted. “And so if you are opposed then you must be a bad person.”
RELATED: ANDY RICHTER SAYS REPUBLICANS RESPONSIBLE FOR NAZI CORRELATION