Tag Archives: Munk Debate

Jordan Peterson

There is clearly tremendous envy wrapped up in the reactions people have to Jordan Peterson. One doesn’t have to agree with all he says to recognize this. I find him a breath of fresh and necessary air. But it’s amusing — and a bit scary — to see how silly his critics become when you mention his name. It is even more amusing to see how so many of them clearly have never actually read anything he has written or listened to anything he has said. I give as an example something that happened when a very lovely young man I know posted something positive about Peterson on Facebook recently. The bullying pile-on was swift, angry, and not remotely fact-based. Included in the comments were that Peterson was against gender equality, that he belittled transgendered people, that he said young women who get drunk and who are sexually assaulted therefore deserved it, and on and on and on.

Sheer nonsense, of course. Not one of those accusations (and the others that were made in the same thread) is true. Further, someone used as an “argument” the acceptance of “Ms.” into our culture as proof that Peterson is wrong to be concerned about compelled speech. Well, “Ms.” was never compelled. It became accepted over time naturally. No one was ever threatened with an indictment by the state for refusing “Ms.” What concerns Peterson is compelled speech, not the natural and inevitable changes that take place in a language, and I share that concern. One need only a cursory knowledge of history to know that the state compelling sudden changes in word use is bad, bad news.

Many of his critics accuse him of being “alt right,” and as “proof” they point out he has “alt right” fans. I suspect he does have some alt right fans, but he can’t much control who likes him or doesn’t like him. Just as many of his critics haven’t actually read his work, I suspect his extremist fans haven’t either. (I had similar “fans” when I had my weekly Toronto Star column, and I did not like it, but I knew it had nothing to do with what I believed.) If you read Peterson’s work or listen to him, you will see he is more of a classical liberal.

What is interesting is that what Peterson is most concerned about is the stupidity of young males – another reason the accusation that he thinks girls who get drunk deserve sexual assault or that he is anti-gender equality does not hold up (that, and the fact that he has never said any such thing). One would think his concern that young males not behave like groping idiots might appeal to people, particularly on the left, particularly those who call themselves feminists. Well, it does to some, thank goodness.

All of this is on my mind because of tonight’s Munk Debate, which I will be attending and to which I am looking forward. And here’s a good (fact-based and not oozing jealousy) take on Peterson.

Munk Debate

My plan was to write about the Munk Debate on my HuffPost page, but alas, I never got around to it and now it feels too late. So I’ll just post a few thoughts/links here now. I brought my sister with me to see the debate – she had a particular interest in the topic as she has worked with refugees in the past. Further, she is knowledgeable and serious about the Middle East and about the difficulties we face in trying to be humane all while doing our best to not be stupid about our own security.

First of all, some links: Steve Paikin sums up how I viewed the evening, for the most part, and — with considerably more edge — so does Kathy Shaidle (I wish I could write like her!). Barbara Kay and Nicholas Nazar are also worth your time.

I went expecting to like Simon Schama and Mark Steyn and not knowing much about the other two speakers, Louise Arbour and Nigel Farage, other than that Arbour worked for the UN and therefore pleases my Annex-nik neighbours here in Toronto (and Farage decidedly does not). Now, it might seem odd that I attended with the expectation that both Schama and Steyn would impress me, but it shouldn’t. Schama is one of the few literati leftists who supports Israel and his Story of the Jews is quite a treat. And Steyn is, well, he’s Steyn — Sinatra, cats, politics, books, Broadway.

By the end of the evening, I found Arbour to be what my mother would have called “a pill,” and Farage to have been quite reasonable and serious. He and Steyn both showed up armed with statistics, facts, ideals and arguments based on an understanding of events and of history. I had expected the same from Schama, but I was disappointed. Other than his choice of very stylish footwear for the evening, he appeared to be phoning everything in, right down to his closing statement, which consisted of him reading John Donne’s Meditation XVII. The latter is a magnificent poem, but really, Simon Schama, that is your closing argument? It was as though both Schama and Arbour felt it was enough to get up there and say “we should be nice.” Well yes, we should be. I have not a doubt the opposing team agreed with that sentiment. But if we’re blind in our niceness, we will be incapable of helping anyone down the line, which is what Steyn pointed out in his closing argument (which was actually an argument).

There was a smugness in how the pro-side approached the debate, and I think that it was, in large part, why they lost. There was kind of a disbelief — particularly from Arbour — that the audience could possibly do anything other than support her statements. She became quite snarky and snide when she felt any change in the crowd’s mood, any sway in a different direction.

In a way, I don’t blame her for that attitude: I’ve been to many Munk Debates and it is generally a pretty Annex-nik audience (or “Trudeau-pian,” as Steyn called it on his website). Schama, for his part, kept mentioning that he “didn’t disagree” with Steyn and Farage about certain things. I couldn’t help but wonder if he wouldn’t have felt more comfortable on the opposing team (particularly given Arbour’s, er, past attitudes about Israel), but couldn’t bring himself to admit it.

I don’t get out much, because I simply prefer to stay home, but I was glad I made the effort. Thanks to my sister, who really provided the impetus, coming from out of town to attend. If you click the link here, you can watch the debate (though you may have to sign in or register or something).