A few days ago (July 6, 2018) Mayor Pro Tempore Jillian Johnson and her colleagues on the Durham city council saw fit to release a statement on FaceBook concerning my upcoming 12 Rules for Life Tour appearance September 10 at the Performing Arts Center in their city. These are the signatories:
Steve Schewel, Mayor: Steve.Schewel@durhamnc.gov
Jillian Johnson, Mayor Pro Tempore: Jillian.Johnson@durhamnc.gov
Vernetta Alston, City Council Member, Ward 3: email@example.com
Javiera Caballero, City Council Member At-Large: Javiera.Caballero@durhamnc.gov
DeDreana Freeman, City Council Member, Ward 1: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark-Anthony Middleton, City Council Member, Ward 2: Mark-Anthony.Middleton@durhamnc.gov
Charlie Reece, City Council Member At-Large: email@example.com
The entire council can be contacted here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lest anyone accuse me of doxing, let it be known that all these email addresses can be found on the Durham city council website.
The City of Durham’s statement 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. To lay this bare, I have composed this analysis of the psychological motivations and narrative structure of the statement.
It opens with what appears to be a purely objective account of my upcoming 12 Rules for Life tour lecture/discussion in Durham, but is in fact an outright lie, as well as an act of betrayal (quite the accomplishment for a single sentence): “We recently learned from coverage in the Indyweek [a local newspaper self-described as ‘progressive’ and one founded, by the way, by the mayor Steve Schewel, a signatory to the statement] that the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC) has invited Jordan Peterson to speak in the venue this September.”
The lie? The Durham Performing Arts Center did not invite me. I rented the theater. There is a world of difference. But, of course, without the allegation of ‘invitation’ there is no one to cast into disrepute. And that leads us to the betrayal, which is the purposeful and motivated casting of aspersions on the character of the people who run the DPAC, who are in any case directly or indirectly under the supervision or jurisdiction of the mayor and councilors. So the perpetrators have been identified.
It’s so interesting in a very dark and terrible way to observe this happening. Why? Because it’s a great example of the tendency of radicals to devour their own. Consider this: people who run theatrical operations are likely to be high in openness to experience (the very trait that also best predicts left-leaning political views). Thus, the DPAC administrators being thrown under the bus for committing a crime (inviting me) that they didn’t even commit are likely of similar political mindset to the councilors and mayor/mayor pro tem. What could possibly motivate such an act? (other than desire to deflect responsibility for my appearance in Durham). Here’s an answer: There is little self-aggrandizement involved in claiming moral superiority to me (particularly given my reprehensible characteristics, as outlined below). But if the mayor/mayor pro tem and the councilors can claim moral superiority even to their left-leaning compatriots, then they shine forth from the background ever so much more brightly and purely – better as they apparently are even than those already on the side of the true and the good.
That first sentence is followed by a statement specifically disavowing any responsibility on the part of the council for my invitation (this is also the first and comparatively most subtle indication in the statement of the absolute and self-proclaimed moral purity of the authors): “Though the DPAC is owned by the City of Durham, the theater’s management companies, Nederlander & PFM, are entirely responsible for the choice of shows and performers who appear at the venue.” Simply put: “the fact that this person is appearing is not only someone else’s responsibility but someone else’s fault.” This statement has the dual advantage of alerting the reader in an initially subtle manner to the reprehensible nature of the speaker (without having to take the risk of saying so in a forthright manner so early in the argument) as well as reminding the reader once again of the poor character of the theatre management (already thrown to the dogs in the opening sentence).
The next three sentences are a conceptually brutal mishmash of self-righteousness, indignation and utter moral and political confusion:
“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.”
First, that’s Dr. Peterson to you all, bucko. Second, why is this proviso necessary? Such a right, granted by elected officials, should be respected without saying. The next sentence reveals the necessity: “However, we wish to emphasize that a person’s right to free speech does not include the right to a platform or an audience.” What “right to a platform or an audience” are we talking about here? I don’t have and am not claiming any “right to a platform.” I RENTED THE THEATER. What of my “right” to an audience? People can either come and see me (tickets available here, by the way: ) or not, as they see fit. But none of those fine details matter, because this sentence was only written to justify the next, the kicker—around which the statement truly revolves in its entirety:
“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.”
“As many in our community…” — Who? Best that they remain anonymous, I suppose, for their supposed safety and peace of mind. How many? That is not something that needs to be stated or known, apparently – and how convenient for the denouncers that such is the case.
“Have been disturbed and angered…” Why? Justifiably or unjustifiably? Because of their sensitivity, or because of what was said? What was said that was so disturbing and angering, by the way? Of course, none of that matters in the least, because if anyone anywhere is “disturbed and angered” about anything whatsoever then whoever is blamed for that disturbance and anger is deemed in keeping with such thought as (1) guilty and (2) reprehensible.
“Racist, misogynistic and transphobic views…” That’s quite the evil triad. I’m a racist and I hate women (or disapprove of them, or something of that sort). I’ll ignore “transphobic” as it’s a word I despise, although trans people are welcome to go to hell in a handbasket or ascend to heaven in their own particularly manner, as far as I am concerned, as long as those of them who are activists keep their damned mitts off the rights and responsibilities I bear in relationship to my words. Note as well (and this is also of primary import): this statement is not written merely to denounce me. No: it’s written to denounce everyone who has the temerity to buy a ticket to this event. If my views are “racist, misogynistic and transphobic” then clearly everyone who wants to hear me express them is deplorable in the same manner.
Note that the writers provide no documentation whatsoever to indicate that these allegations are true: no quotation, no sourcing, no evidence whatsoever that any of the denouncers are familiar in the least with anything I have actually said or done. Furthermore, since the allegations are put forward merely as a matter of fact, the statement is written to imply that all those who are good will unquestioningly hold such opinions (since no proof of their validity is necessary). And then, a mere two sentences later, this claim: “Those who seek to exclude or deny the humanity of others will find no comfort here.” I presume by “others” the writers mean “groups of others” because they certainly have no problem generating and distributing serious allegations against identifiable and particular individuals (myself, the DPAC administrators and all those who wish to attend my lecture) when they feel warranted to do so)
So far, the writers aimed at the following ends:
1) To avoid responsibility and point a finger of blame at erstwhile colleagues.
2) To denounce me and my hypothetical audience (and claim moral superiority)
This does not yet satisfy their ambitions. Next, a little egregious and self-serving electioneering is inserted, based upon that avoidance, blame and denunciation, in case the readers have failed to notice that the writers were career politicians: “we would like to use this opportunity to reiterate our commitments and values to all of you as your elected representatives.”
Even that does not suffice. Following that, in sequence? A lengthy and cliched declamation of the self-evident virtues of the left, written to ensure that the writers and everyone who encounters the article is left with no doubt about just who is on the side of the angels and who is not – complete with all the requisite gestures, identity-politics references and ideologically appropriate buzzwords:
“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.”
“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 honor single parents, non-nuclear families, gay, lesbian, and queer families, and chosen families who are building lives full of love and support for each other and for the children in our community.”
“We believe that all types of families raise healthy children who are prepared to succeed and make a positive contribution to the world.”
“We believe that men and women are equally competent leaders and thinkers and that women should be in leadership roles in our community. 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.”
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. Exposure to such a piece of writing left me with a strong desire for a hot shower accompanied by plenty of soap and a scrub brush.
Mayor Pro Tem Jillian Johnson
|In closing (to paraphrase a well-known dead white male):
O most pernicious woman!
O villain, villain, smiling, damnèd villain!
My tables—meet it is I set it down
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain—
At least I am sure it may be so in Durham.