HAMILTON, ONTARIO -- Canada's McMaster University was the site of a clash between free speech advocates and trans-sexual rights demonstrators this week, at what was supposed to be a debate about a new law in that country criminalizing offensive speech on the basis of gender identity. The law, Bill C-16, mandates that individuals use the preferred pronouns of gender non-binary people or be faced with prosecution.
One of the speakers, University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson, has gained national attention in 2017 for his public stand against the idea that government can put regulations on individuals' speech and has produced a detailed series of academic lectures on YouTube explaining the philosophical and ethical backing for his position.
"The most important thing is that it is the first piece of Canadian legislation that has ever been put forward that actually requires people to use a particular set of words," he said when he was allowed a chance to speak. "We've never had a piece of legislation ever that would require you to use a certain vocabulary -- no matter what that vocabulary is. And the fact that it happens to be about trans-gender terminology is beside the point."
The subject of the event was: "Drawing the Line: an open discourse on political correctness and freedom of speech"
When he attempted to speak, Peterson faced continued shouting from hecklers in the audience, the blaring of air horns and cowbells, and chants such as: "Trans-phobic piece of shit" and "This is where we draw the line." At times, his suporters unsuccessfully chanted back: "Let him speak!"
After the attendees left the event, a group of students formed a wall around Professor Peterson outside and gave him a chance to speak.
PROFESSOR JORDAN PETERSON: So what I would recommend perhaps is that all of you who want to hear me talk, leave. Go outside and I'll come outside and talk to you.
[exits the building surrounded by students]
When you are faced with unreasonable opposition, it is best to let unreasonable opposition speak, because they manifest themselves as unreasonable. And then everyone can see it. So that is part of the reason you want free speech.
[interruptions begin again]
At least they're at the back of the crowd this time.
STUDENT: Let's insulate Dr. Peterson.
PETERSON: So, no, security can't help. No matter what they do, they are wrong. If they let this go on, they are wrong. If they intervene, they causing trouble for students, no matter who the students are or what they're doing, they are wrong then too. So, it is okay, listen. [The yelling man] is just about hoarse, he'll take care of himself.
So I can tell you a little bit about why I was opposed to Bill C-16, and there is a variety of reasons. I think the most important one is that it is the first piece of Canadian legislation that has ever been put forward that actually requires people to use a particular set of words.
There is other legislation that does govern to some degree what you can't say -- you can't incite a crime... but we've never had a piece of legislation ever that would require you to use a certain vocabulary -- no matter what that vocabulary is. And the fact that it happens to be about trans-gender terminology is beside the point.
It is all focused on this particular issue. It had to focus on some issue, but this isn't the issue that is at the bottom of it, it just is that complex things manifest themselves in very particular locations, and this just happens to be the location where this is manifesting itself...
And finally, you can see too that the vast majority of people, for example, men who are biologically male and identify and present themselves as male are also heterosexual -- 95% of them, perhaps 98% of them, these are the statistics--
STUDENT: Excuse me sir, sorry, I just have a question. I believe it was explicitly stated to you that you should be staying off of those topics. We want to hear your views on free speech, but we don't want to hear your views on gender identity. I thought it was made clear to you.
STUDENT 2: We're no longer in that event now.
STUDENT: I'd appreciate it if you would stay on topic.
PETERSON: I don't think it is up to you to decide that...
I can tell you a little bit about why these attempts to shut people down are being made. Because you need to know this. So, as far as I've been able to determine, this kind of protest is an expression of a philosphy that is grounded partly in post-modernism and partly in Marxism. Now, the post-modern element is basically this: There is no such thing as genuine individual identity. There is only group identity, and you, like it or not, only have the interests of your group. And the whole world is nothing but a battleground between groups of different interests, there is no dialogue, there is no possiblity of talking between the groups, it is just a power stage where combat has to take place, and so the reason that speakers with whom the radical post-modernists and the Marxists disgaree are denied a platform is because those people do not believe in the philosophical position that dialogue can bring consensus. And all that is left, if you forgo that particular principle, is this...
And this is only where is starts. The fact is you're all pretty damn civilized. And thank God for that, because if there were enough fools in the crowd, especially ones who are intent on violence, this would turn out very differently. We do not want to go down that pathway. It is a big mistake.
CBC News writes this wrap-up of what happened:
Fallout from the cancelled debate continues to be felt on campus, as the university also says it is investigating an allegation of assault as part of the protest that prevented Dr. Jordan Peterson from speaking to a crowd last Friday at McMaster University.
The debate, which was to include three professors to counter Peterson, quickly turned into a shouting match as Peterson struggled to be heard over clanging cowbells, blowing air horns and chanting protestors. Eventually, Peterson retreated outside the hall, where he continued speaking while standing on a bench.
One individual was seen blowing an air horn very close to Peterson's ear. Another person reportedly threw glitter on Peterson's face and suit.
Peterson was making an appearance for what was supposed to be an academic debate about freedom of speech and political correctness, especially in academic settings. Peterson objects to the use of gender-less pronouns and laws that would require him to use them.
This video was edited by the Gravitahn YouTube page.
Peterson explains his position on the Joe Rogan podcast: