It Is Right To Disrupt: On Jordan Peterson

(Unsigned, Queen’s University)

We hold it evident that Jordan B. Peterson is an egotistical charlatan who engages in transphobic, sexist, and racist forms of discourse in his promotion of conspiratorial hysterics. Under the guise of freedom of speech, he demands all platforms for his malformed and meandering repudiation of legal defenses against workplace harassment, among other absurdities. His unanswerable ‘critique’ serves only his broader agenda of instilling hostility towards the oppressed, and the academic frameworks which elucidate their oppression. It ought to be considered a ‘flight risk’, which enables more outwardly violent bigots. In spite of his exposure, Peterson has refused to offer retractions or admit the abject failure of his inane ‘ideology’, opening one question: In the face of an unflinching conspiracist whose success would threaten the oppressed, what is to be done?

It is necessary to engage in disruptive tactics. To suggest that transphobic scaremongering should be met only with civility is to disregard the safety of marginalized people, and the reality of all past civil engagements. No exposition of his sophistry has slowed his rise to fame and fortune. Moreover, it ignores historical struggles. ‘Peace’ and ‘free speech’ are the last defenses of threatened bigots. Peterson’s transphobic fear that legal rights protecting safety and dignity would produce some imaginary threat to his own well-being is nothing more than the reactionary flailing of a confused patriarch losing his grasp on power. As such, we celebrate our disruptive tactics that are, in the present cultural moment, not considered acts of ‘peaceful protest’. These tactics included blockading doors, banging on the windows of Grant Hall, interrupting the discussion from the inside, and making our way inside Kingston Hall to heckle people as they came out of the lecture. For this, we make no apologies, and ask for no absolution.

Indeed, Jordan Peterson has been exposed before on public platforms and in academic debate, in particular by professor Brenda Crossman; nevertheless, his popularity persists. It is from this observation that we found it necessary to engage in disruptive action to prevent his speech from abusing Queen’s in pursuit of legitimacy.

The smearing of obnoxious dissent by branding it ‘violent’ disguises several realities that are uncomfortable for the institution.

The second of these realities is that ‘violence’ is only used to denigrate marginalized people standing up against bigotry. Every year, during both Homecoming and St. Patrick’s Day festivities, students and tourists disrupt the flow of everyday life in acts of destructive revelry. Such disruptions are never named ‘violence’, but rather understood to be ordinary parts of student life. What a disgusting ideological climate! The senseless disruption of public spaces and destruction of property is an ‘unfortunate fact of campus culture’, but disruption with purpose is ‘violent’ action to be condemned. While we criticize the double-standard of labeling oppressed people protesting ‘violent’, we also refuse the category of ‘peaceful protest’, as it serves to pacify all resistance to oppression. The brunt of demonization under the framework of ‘peace’ is borne disproportionately by Black, Indigenous, and Palestinian organizations, in order to justify their suppression by the state, capital, and racist vigilantes. No matter our actions, we will not accept framing tactics which divide our movements against themselves.

A more substantive objection to disruptive tactics is the question of efficacy. In short: what did this accomplish? The first answer is perhaps too simple. It provoked the ire of Peterson and his supporters. Several of Peterson’s supporters yelled at us and indicated that they were offended by our very presence. Many felt accused or complicit with Peterson’s overall project in their defense of him, as they should. Peterson compared us, in our act of protest, to ‘barbarians at the gate,’ an epithet carefully selected to reinforce his hysterical allegation that his opposition represents a threat to Western civilization. We do not reject the characterization; of ‘the West’ is defined by a refusal to reevaluate itself in light of its history of oppression, then out with it! We, however, mock and condemn the bluster with which Peterson characterizes himself as its last line of defense with his over inflation of his critics.

Secondly, one must consider that every act of disruption which allows the people to voice their opposition to reactionary drivel is a learning experience. What does it teach? That we are fundamentally capable of meeting our demands without the help of, or in direct opposition to, the university administration. We relied, rather, on a combination of organized collective action and creative spontaneous resistance to voice our demands that transphobic conspiracies should have no place on this campus or in this city. The experience of organizing our protest reinforced for us the futility of raising concerns with the administration. Additionally, other groups suggested peaceful solutions that would, in our estimation, offer little to no defense of oppressed students.

The very essence of protest is in disruption; one cannot expect to put an end to a state of affairs that has already proved beyond negotiation without threatening its continued operation. The mere exposure of bigots like Peterson does very little to substantively challenge them, as previous experience with such tactics has shown. Debates and interviews have merely resulted in crocodile tears over ‘misrepresentation’ and ‘bias’ for the grave crime of hardball questions. He uses every engagement to reinforce his conspiracy theory to his most devoted followers, and routinely refuses to directly answer criticism. The subsequent characterization of disruptive tactics as ‘violent’, once all ‘legitimate’ forms of engagement have been dismissed, characterizes the final opposition of the oppressed to their oppression as ‘immoral’, and legitimizes the suppression of that opposition. The accomplishments of disruption are two-fold: first, by denying those complicit with oppression comfort and ease in promoting their beliefs; and secondly, in teaching participants to rely on their own resourcefulness and collective action, instead of wishing on fruitless appeals to an administration.